Legislative Research Commission Director Robert Sherman resigned Friday as two LRC staffers prepare to file lawsuits after allegations of sexual harassment by a former lawmaker surfaced in August.
Sherman, who had been with the agency since 1978 and spent the past 14 years as director, was not in the office and could not be reached for comment Friday. Deputy Director Robert Jenkins will be acting director until top lawmakers name a replacement, according to an email to LRC staff obtained by The State Journal.
In his letter to Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Sherman said he had been contemplating retirement “for some time.” He said he would have retired earlier, but he wanted to oversee a staff investigation of sexual harassment allegations filed by two partisan staffers.
“The goal was to fully protect two of our fine staff from improper conduct and retaliation of any sort,” Sherman, who earned $195,000 annually, said in his resignation letter. “I believed that goal was achieved.
“Now that this phase of examination has concluded, I believe that a logical time for my departure has arrived.”
Sherman’s letter did not give an effective date of his resignation.
His comments on LRC’s investigation are in reference Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper, two LRC employees in House Democratic leadership who filed ethics complaints against for Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, alleging he sexually harassed them.
A third staffer, legislative secretary Gloria Morgan, filed a similar complaint against Arnold, but she was not referenced in Sherman’s letter.
Sherman’s resignation will not impede the pursuit of legal action by Costner and Cooper, Thomas Clay, their Louisville attorney, said in a phone interview. In fact, Clay said he is in the process of determining who to file lawsuits against and collecting additional information “that will hopefully establish the existence of this culture.”
“The list of people I need to gather information from is expanding,” he said. “So, my plans to have this litigation in shape to file this week have been delayed because of an influx of new information.”
Lourdes Baez, Stivers’ spokeswoman, said Sherman notified Stivers of his decision to resign earlier Friday.
“Bobby did not tell him why other than to say that it was the appropriate time to leave,” Baez said, noting Stivers would have no further comment on the matter.
Stumbo offered a succinct statement Friday, saying, “We thank Bobby for his many years of service, both as a staff person and as the director.”
Clay said Sherman’s resignation did not surprise him, but he wants “to know the rest of the story.”
He called Sherman’s comments on LRC’s investigation into sexual harassment allegations “another effort to place this investigation in a favorable light.” Clay has maintained that LRC has not informed his clients of any final resolution to its investigation.
“My question is, why is he resigning now?” Clay asked. “It could’ve been because he knew there were going to be issues about things that happened at LRC under his watch because there are going to be issues raised about LRC’s actions under his watch, whether he’s still the director or whether he’s resigned.”
Clay made similar remarks regarding Arnold, who resigned last week in a letter to Gov. Steve Beshear.
Clay said he has information regarding retaliation by a current House member, but he declined to discuss details of that allegation.