FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — House Speaker Greg Stumbo appointed five lawmakers Friday to a special committee that will investigate sexual harassment complaints against one of their colleagues.
The appointees include three Democrats and two Republicans. Two are women. They will look into complaints against Democratic state Rep. John Arnold, of Sturgis. He is accused of sexually harassing three legislative workers.
Stumbo had filed a petition with the House clerk on Thursday calling for the formation of the investigative committee, which could recommend Arnold's censure or expulsion.
Arnold didn't immediately return a phone call to his legislative office Friday. He has refused to discuss the allegations since they became public last week. In the complaints, the legislative workers, all women, alleged that Arnold had touched them inappropriately and had made vulgar comments.
The five appointees to the special committee are Democrats Arnold Simpson of Covington, Rita Smart, of Richmond, and Jeff Donohue, of Louisville. The Republicans are Julie Adams, of Louisville, and Robert Benvenuti, of Lexington. Originally, Stumbo's office had said eight lawmakers would be appointed, but later reduced it to five.
When the lawmakers complete the investigation, they'll recommend to the full House what should be done.
"I have no doubt that these legislators will do an outstanding job, and I appreciate their willingness to take on such an important responsibility," Stumbo said Friday.
Stumbo said the sexual harassment allegations have become a distraction as lawmakers prepare for an upcoming legislative session, set to begin in January, and that he knew of no other way to deal with them.
"The integrity of our chamber needs to be above reproach, and I intend to see that we accept nothing less," Stumbo said in a statement Thursday. "I wish none of this had to occur, but I am committed to seeing it resolved in a way that is swift, fair and transparent."
Legislative leaders suspended Arnold as chairman of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Economic Development & Tourism, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, pending completion of the investigation. Previously, Stumbo's office had mistakenly said Arnold had been suspended as chairman of the Budget Review Subcommittee on General Government, Finance and Public Protection, a position he didn't hold.
Senate President Robert Stivers said Friday that the special House committee has "a somber task" ahead. However, he said the committee has no authority to investigate whether anyone attempted to impede or interfere with any previous investigations of the sexual harassment complaints.
"Without the ability to ask and answer these questions, we have no way of determining what corrective action is needed," Stivers said in a statement.
Stivers also raised concerns about potential financial judgments against the Legislative Research Commission if the women who filed the complaints also file lawsuits.
The Legislative Research Commission is scheduled to meet Wednesday to review how the complaints were handled. Stivers said he's hopeful that meeting "will shed light on these questions because the alleged behavior cannot and will not be condoned or excused in any way."