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Resolution reached in mediation of legislative sexual harassment claims

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – A resolution has been reached in the mediation of claims involving sexual harassment, retaliation and other misconduct against state lawmakers.

Leslie Vose, attorney for the Legislative Research Commission, and Thomas Clay, attorney for three women who made the claims, confirmed the resolution Tuesday morning but declined to provide any details of it.

Vose, of Lexington, said, “I can say the mediation was successful to all parties involved,” but said legislative leaders now will have to sign off on it.

Neither House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, nor Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, had any immediate comment.

John Cox, a spokesman for Stivers, said details of the resolution will not be immediately released. He did not elaborate.

Clay, of Louisville, said the parties Monday night “reached a mutually satisfactory resolution.”

The closed mediation started Monday in the Lexington law office of Steve Barker.

Clay also said “all parties involved” should be pleased and that the resolution will take care of all lawsuits in the cases.

The mediation addressed two cases, both brought in October of 2013.

One involved sexual harassment claims by legislative staffers Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper against former state Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis. Arnold has denied any wrongdoing.

The two women also sued the Legislative Research Commission, and earlier this year added Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, as a defendant after Bell fired Costner from her job in the House majority whip’s office soon after he was elected whip.

The second case involved allegations by legislative staffer Nicole Cusic that she was moved to an inferior job after she complained that Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, had sexually harassed female legislative staffers.

Coursey has denied the charge and sued Cusic for defamation. Cusic also listed the LRC and former LRC director Bobby Sherman as defendants in her case.

Beshear creates special panel to study teachers’ retirement funding; Hoover criticizes it

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order Tuesday to create a 23-member group to address the state’s financially strapped Teachers’ Retirement System.

Beshear named David Karem, a former Democratic state senator from Louisville and a former chairman of the state Board of Education, to chair the panel and to submit a report to him by or on Dec. 1.

Beshear leaves office in early December and could turn over any recommendations to the 2016 General Assembly.

The creation of the special panel drew applause from the top two legislative leaders – House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester – but criticism from House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown.

Hoover said he was “extremely disappointed.”
“Gov. Beshear had a real opportunity to create an independent, non-partisan panel to give a thorough review of KTRS in an effort to make substantive recommendations to solidify the system,” said Hoover in an email.

“Instead the governor chose to fill this task force with self-serving special interest groups that have been part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

John Schaff named new head of Legislative Ethics Commission

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — John Schaaf, who has been legal counsel for the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission since 2004, will become its news executive director Aug. 1.

Schaaf will replace Anthony Wilhoit, who is retiring.

The bipartisan commission, made up of private citizens, selected Schaaf from 38 applications from all over the country, commission chairman George Troutman of Louisville said in a release.

In 1992, Schaaf worked with the Task Force on Governmental Ethics to draft the legislation which created the Legislative Ethics Commission.

Before joining the commission as its legal counsel, Schaaf was general counsel for the Legislative Research Commission for 16 years. He and his wife have three sons and lives in Scott County.

Wilhoit has led the commission staff since 1997. He took the job shortly after he retired as chief judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. He served on the court for 21 years.

Prior to that, Wilhoit was the state’s first public advocate, and served as Woodford County attorney and police judge.

In 2012, Wilhoit received the COGEL Award, the highest honor given by the international organization of public and private organizations working in the fields of ethics, campaign finance, elections and open records.

In addition to Troutman, other members of the Ethics Commission are vice chair Pat Freibert of Lexington, former Sen. Charlie Borders of Grayson, Deborah Jo Durr of Richwood, Bob Fulkerson of Louisville, attorney Elmer George of Lebanon, retired Judge Paul Gudgel of Lexington, Henry L. Stephens, Jr. of Union and former Sen. Ken Winters of Murray.
–Jack Brammer

Beshears to go to England to promote tourism in Kentucky

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT –Gov. Steve Beshear and first lady Jane Beshear are to visit England next week to meet with British travel operators and media representatives to promote tourism in Kentucky.

Joining Beshear will be representatives of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet and convention and visitor bureaus in Louisville, Lexington and Northern Kentucky.

“We requested the Beshears join us because with the Breeders’ Cup coming to Kentucky and a Triple Crown winner from Kentucky, this is a great time to be telling international travelers about the Bluegrass State,” Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Bob Stewart said in a release.

“The United Kingdom sends the most overseas travelers to Kentucky and we want to help that market grow. A recent travel forecast from the U.S. Commerce Department indicates continued growth in international visitors through 2020.”

Beshear plans to meet with journalists and others in the travel industry to promote Kentucky tourism, a $13.1 billion industry.

He also will visit Ascot Racecourse during the trip.

The Beshears will arrive in England on Wednesday and return Sunday, June 21.

KY Sen. Chris Girdler of Somerset will not seek re-election next year

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — State Sen. Chris Girdler, R-Somerset, announced Thursday he will not seek re-election to the Kentucky Senate next year.

Girdler, a former aide and district director for Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset, said in a statement that after more than “a year of prayerful consideration and conversations with my wife and close friends, I have confidently come to the decision that I will not be seeking re-election in 2016.”

Girdler, who won an election in 2012 to represent the 15th Senate District that includes Pulaski, Lincoln and Boyle counties, said he has a deep passion for public service but his wife, Courtney, and he are expecting their second daughter soon “and my passion for public service pales in comparison to the love and passion I have for my family and my faith.”

Girdler noted that he suggested many times on the campaign trail in 2012 that he did not plan on serving in the Senate for a long time.

“I feel I made that abundantly clear when I opted out of the legislative retirement plan upon being sworn in to prove that I was not in the General Assembly for the perks and privileges, but there to do the people’s business, and that is exactly what I have done,” he said.

KY House Democratic leaders talk road projects with Rogers, Paul and Boehner

Four Kentucky Democratic House leaders met Wednesday in Washington with U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, to discuss road projects in the state. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, attended the meeting with Rogers.

The discussions involved Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s efforts to extend the Mountain Parkway in Eastern Kentucky from Prestonsburg to Beckley, W.Va., and widening the Hal Rogers Parkway in south-central Kentucky, bringing it up to interstate standards and extending it southeast to Tennessee.

The combined projects would become part of the Interstate 66 project that Eastern Kentucky leaders and Rogers have long championed.

“These meetings went exactly as we had hoped and show that the support is growing in our nation’s capitol,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, in a release.

“They realize, as we do, that projects like these can open up the region in a way no other can. Eastern Kentucky needs a major interstate route to the east and south, and these plans are the best way to do that.”

Kentucky House members with Stumbo were House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook, House Speaker Pro Tem Jody Richards of Bowling Green and House Majority Whip Johnny Bell of Glasgow.

They arranged the meetings while in Washington for the National Conference of State Legislature’s Symposium for Legislative Leaders.

Stumbo has asked the state Transportation Cabinet to look at how the project from Prestonsburg to Beckley, W.Va., could be accomplished.

He supports using up to $1 billion of federal abandoned mine land funds.

“Rather than sitting idle, these funds can be used to improve the coal region’s infrastructure and economic future,” he said.

The Kentucky House leaders support expanding the project’s scope to include the Hal Rogers Parkway and tying it together under the I-66 umbrella.

“I want to thank Rep. Rogers, Sen. Paul and House Speaker Boehner for meeting with us and offering their suggestions,” Stumbo said. “These billion-dollar projects can’t be built overnight, but the sooner we can lay the groundwork and planning, the sooner we can begin turning this dream into reality.”

–Jack Brammer

State Road Fund expects $11M shortfall

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – The state Road Fund, which pays for highway projects, may come up $11 million less than expected for the year.

State budget director Jane Driskell reported Wednesday in a release that Road Fund receipts fell 4.1 percent last month compared to May 2014 with collections of $126 million. Year-to-date collections have fallen 1.5 percent.

The official Road Fund revenue estimate calls for a decrease in revenues of 0.9 percent for fiscal year 2015, which ends June 30.

Based on year-to-date tax collections, revenues must grow 5.6 percent in June to meet the estimate.

The most recent internal revenue estimate predicted a Road Fund revenue shortfall of $11 million for the fiscal year, Driskell said.

State Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe said, “Anytime there is a budget shortfall,something has to give.”

But Wolfe said it would not be possible to say at this time what might be affected in the cabinet with a budget shortfall.

“It could mean a delay in some kind of activity or project,” he said, adding that the cabinet’s expected budget for this fiscal year is about $1.5 billion.

Auditor Edelen to hold statewide meetings on untested rape kits

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT – State Auditor Adam Edelen and officials with the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs will hold 14 meetings across the state this summer to talk about the state’s problem with untested rape kits.

Edelen, a Democrat who is seeking re-election this year, said the meetings are part of his office’s efforts to conduct a statewide count of untested sexual-assault kits.

He also plans to make recommendations to the state legislature to reform how evidence in cases of sexual violence is handled.

The statewide count was prompted by legislation sponsored this year by Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville.

Senate Joint Resolution 20 calls on Edelen to count the number of untested sexual-assault evidence kits in the possession of law enforcement. Kentucky State Police officials have said there might be as many as 2,000 to 5,000 untested kits sitting on shelves in police stations and prosecutors’ offices across the state.

Edelen said the kits contain biological evidence collected from assault victims during investigations and might contain DNA from assailants who can be identified by comparisons with the national DNA database.

“These meetings are an important part of our examination of the complex issues surrounding untested rape kits,” Edelen said in a release. “I hope to hear from law enforcement, prosecutors, survivors and others as we begin working toward recommending reforms to the system.”

Edelen said he wants to talk to survivors, victims’ advocates, nurses, law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and others who are involved in sexual assault investigations and gather testimony about the issues and challenges they face.

He said his office is focused on issues such as how kits are logged, tracked and stored, how decisions to test kits are made, whether victims are notified of the status of their kits and whether law enforcement have sufficient policies, procedures and training to handle kits and deal with victims.

Survivors, victims’ advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors and others who are involved in sexual assault investigations are invited to attend the meetings to voice their concerns and experiences.

Persons who would prefer to share privately their concerns with the auditor’s office may request time in advance of the meetings to do so, Edelen said.

Also, individuals may share their stories, concerns and opinions via email at stephenie.hoelscher@ky.gov. Confidentiality may be requested.

Here is the schedule of the meetings:

June 23
2 p.m. CST
New Beginnings Sexual Assault Support Services, 1716 Scherm Rd., Owensboro

June 26
10 a.m. CST
Purchase Area Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center, 1605 North Friendship Road, Paducah

June 30
10 a.m. EST
Women’s Crisis Center, 3580 Hargrave Drive, Hebron

July 1
11 a.m. EST
Silverleaf Sexual Trauma Recovery Services, 751 South Provident Way, Elizabethtown

July 7
10 a.m. EST
Cumberland River Behavioral Health, 1203 American Greeting Road, Corbin

July 7
2 p.m. EST
Adanta Sexual Assault Resource Center, 130 Southern School Road, Somerset

July 8
1 p.m. EST
Center for Women & Families, 927 S. 2nd Street, Louisville

July 9
10 a.m. CST
Economic Justice Institute, 2109 Old Louisville Road, Bowling Green

July 9
2 p.m. CST
Hopkinsville Municipal Center, 715 S. Virginia Street, Hopkinsville

July 13
10 a.m. EST
145 Constitution Street, Lexington

July 14
11 a.m. EST
Mountain Comprehensive Care Center’s Healing Program for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, 104 S. Front Street, Prestonsburg

July 14
2 p.m. EST
The Rising Center, 637 Morton Blvd., Hazard

July 21
10 am EST
Mason County Health Department, 120 West Third Street, Maysville

July 21
2 p.m. EST
Park Place, 1701 Central Avenue, Ashland

–Jack Brammer

Attorney general: Lexington police broke records law by demanding address of man who sought documents about shooting of dog

By Will Wright
wwright@herald-leader.com

The Lexington Division of Police violated Kentucky’s Open Records Act in January when it required a man seeking records about the 2010 shooting of a dog by a police officer to provide his address, the state Office of Attorney General has ruled.

Tyler Fryman, who lives in Bourbon County, appealed to the attorney general’s office after police required Fryman to provide his address before fulfilling his request for documents related to the shooting by Lexington police officer Aaron Greenleaf. The Open Records Act does not require a person to provide an address unless they want the documents mailed to them.

Greenleaf shot the dog six times after it bit him as he ran through the back yard of a Lexington home while pursuing a suspect on foot. The bite did not draw blood and Greenleaf was not hospitalized. Police defended the officer’s decision at the time, saying he did not violate any policy and that he had the right to be in the back yard because he was pursuing a suspect.

Fryman told the Herald-Leader Monday that he requested the documents because he was interested to know what happened in the case. Fryman said he regularly makes requests for documents — about one a day — from various government agencies.

The city told attorney general investigators that the police department “could not be sure if and when Mr. Fryman would show up at police headquarters, so without a valid address, a response could not be given in three business days.”

To comply with the Open Records Act, public offices must respond to requests within three business days.

Fryman said there was no reason for the police to ask for his address, considering that he was able and willing to come to Lexington to review the documents.

“What if you were homeless?” Fryman asked. “Does a homeless person not have the same rights … to open records?”

Susan Straub, a city spokeswoman, declined to comment on the attorney general’s decision, which carry’s the weight of law unless appealed in Fayette Circuit Court.

Fryman also alleged that police made him pay for the documents even though he requested to view them in police headquarters. State law allows a person to review documents without paying for them. If a copy is requested, the cost is 10 cents per page.

The attorney general ruled that police did not violate this portion of the Open Records Act, citing a lack of evidence.

Police charged a fee for copying the documents and Fryman left the office with the records, according to the attorney general’s office.

Police told state investigators that “it is believed” Fryman paid for the copies without saying that he preferred to view them in the office.

Fryman said Monday that police knew he wanted to view the documents in the police station, but that a police employee refused to give him the documents without paying.

Conway and Overly agree to appear at six forums or debates with Bevin and Hampton

conwaysetupJack Conway’s Democratic gubernatorial campaign on Monday released a schedule of six forums where Conway or his running mate, state Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris, plan to appear alongside their Republican opponents, Louisville financier Matt Bevin and Jenean Hampton.

“I look forward to a serious discussion with my opponent about the issues that matter most to Kentucky families,” Conway, finishing his second term as attorney general, said in a statement.

Ben Hartman, Bevin’s campaign manager, said: “We have agreed to some (of the forums) and are in the process of scheduling the rest. As Matt has said numerous times since Election Day, we would like as many debates as possible.”

Matt BevinThe schedule offered by Conway is:

June 19: Kentucky County Judge-Executive Association summer conference at the Galt House in Louisville.

July 23: Kentucky Farm Bureau “Measure the Candidates” forum at KFB state headquarters in Louisville.

Oct. 6: Centre College in Danville. This will be broadcast on television.

Oct. 19: Kentucky Educational Television’s Kentucky Tonight forum for lieutenant governor candidates in Lexington. This will be broadcast on statewide television.

Oct. 25: Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. This will be broadcast on television.

Oct. 26: KET’s Kentucky Tonight forum for gubernatorial candidates in Lexington. This will be broadcast on statewide television.