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State workers describe sexual harassment to panel

Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Former state Rep. John Arnold will not be punished on charges that he sexually harassed three state employees over four years.

Four of the five Legislative Ethics Commissioners present for Tuesday's hearing voted to find Arnold guilty on three counts of abusing his position as a public official. But state law says the commission cannot do anything unless it has five "yes" votes. Commissioner Elmer George - appointed by Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo a few months ago - voted no on all counts.

During Tuesday's hearing, three state workers - including two staff members of the House Democratic leadership - described how Arnold, a Democrat, touched them inappropriately during a four-year period in what they said was a pattern of sexual harassment left unchecked by their supervisors and legislative leaders.

"You just have to take a spanking on the butt. You have to take having your underwear pulled. You have to take being verbally assaulted, and nobody is going to care about it," Yolanda Costner, executive adviser to House Majority Whip Tommy Thompson, said after the hearing. "You want to keep your job and your position? Keep your mouth shut."

Arnold did not attend Tuesday's hearing. But his attorney, Steve Downey, argued that Arnold is suffering from early signs of dementia, as diagnosed by his doctors. He called Arnold's behavior - "if it occurred," he clarified - "sophomoric and boorish and puzzling."

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