FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Resigning from the Legislature didn't get former state Rep. John Arnold off the hook with colleagues who pressed ahead Tuesday with an investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed legislative staffers at the Capitol.
Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, announced his resignation in a letter to Gov. Steve Beshear on Friday. Even so, a special committee laid groundwork Tuesday for an investigation that could lead to Arnold being censured by the House if the allegations are substantiated.
Legislative workers Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper say Arnold had touched them inappropriately and had made vulgar comments. In his letter of resignation, Arnold said "I do not believe that I am guilty of sexual harassment."
Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Tuesday the investigation is necessary, despite Arnold's departure, to protect the integrity of the Legislature.
"To me, that's the most important thing, that we make people understand that we're not going to turn our heads and look the other way from matters like this," Stumbo told the five lawmakers serving on the investigative panel. "I don't condone this type of behavior and I know that none of you do."
That panel will ultimately recommend to the full House what action, if any, should be taken against Arnold. Stumbo said options range from doing nothing to issuing a reprimand or perhaps to even levy a fine.
Arnold hadn't addressed the charges publicly until he wrote the letter of resignation in which he declared he has been "destroyed politically" and could no longer be an effective voice for his constituents.
Beshear said he will call a special election soon so that voters can choose Arnold's replacement before the start of the next legislative session in January.
The investigative panel met for about an hour on Tuesday, elected Democratic state Rep. Jeffery Donohue of Fairdale as chairman, and set Oct. 9 and Oct. 16 as the next two meeting dates. Donohue said the first action will be to hire an attorney to guide the tribunal of three Democrats and two Republicans in its investigation.
Republican state Rep. Robert Benvenuti III, a member of the investigative tribunal, said the Legislature couldn't allow Arnold to end the end the investigation by resigning. Benvenuti said Kentuckians need to know that when misconduct is alleged, it will be investigated and dealt with appropriately.