FRANKFORT, Ky. (WHAS11) – Two women who filed sexual harassment complaints against Representative John Arnold are talking exclusively after learning of his resignation. Arnold is accused of making vulgar comments and touching the women inappropriately. He resigned Friday, Sept. 13, saying his political career has been ruined.
Arnold’s resignation was bittersweet for Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner, the two Legislative Research Commission employees who filed the sexual assault and harassment complaints. They’re glad he’ll be gone, but disappointed he still isn’t taking responsibility for what they say he did to them. They also say democratic leaders weren’t as in the dark about the allegations as they have claimed.
Little comments here and there; Cooper and Costner say that’s just part of working at the capital.
“This is a culture we work in. People say little things kind of off, maybe they shouldn’t say. Or, there might be a hug that maybe, when you think back on it, like, well, that hug lasted a little bit too long,” Cooper said.
In March of 2010, Costner says she was walking up the stairs outside the annex building at the capital.
“I felt the back of my pants, my underwear being pulled and I didn’t know what was happening because I was stepping up the steps and almost fell back and lost my balance,” she explained.
When she turned around, she said Arnold was standing there.
“I was like, ‘What is wrong with you?’ And he’s like, ‘I couldn’t resist touching those pretty, red lace panties,’” Costner said.
A few years later, on Valentine’s Day, Cooper says Arnold assaulted her.
“With my back turned to anybody, just going about my work, and he walks up behind me and slaps me on the behind,” she said.
The women felt locked in a lose-lose situation; keep quiet and live in fear, or stand up for themselves and lose their careers.
“For something like this to happen, it basically means pretty much my career has ended because I’m appointed staff. I’m spoiled goods, so to speak,” Cooper said.
Both women reached out to their supervisors. Costner talked to Representative John Will Stacy.
“So, when I told Representative Stacy, he was just really, not important, kind of laughed it off, said he was harmless, so we just kind of left it at that.”
Human Resources got involved and the women say the leaders of the Democratic Party, including House Speaker Greg Stumbo, were notified. Still, the women felt the harassment was being swept under the rug.
“Because he’s a legislator, it was like he was immune to anything,” Cooper said.
The women hired an attorney, the case gained publicity, and Arnold resigned. In his letter to the governor, he stated he’d been destroyed politically and that the claims of harassment weren’t true. Arnold also cited his failing health as a reason for stepping down. He said he no longer felt he could serve the needs of his constituents.
Cooper and Costner say, even though he’s stepped down, they’d still like to see the Ethics Commission continue their investigation into Arnold’s behavior.