Search firm hired to find next Legislative Research Commission head

By Kevin Wheatley, Published:

The National Conference of State Legislatures will conduct a search for the Legislative Research Commission’s next director and audit the agency’s operations, top lawmakers decided Wednesday.

The 16-member Legislative Research Commission voted 9-5, with one “pass,” on a $42,410 contract with NCSL. The organization will begin work in January and conclude by April 25, according to its submitted proposal.

NCSL will help the General Assembly recruit and hire a replacement for former LRC Director Robert Sherman, who resigned Sept. 20 after allegations of sexual harassment against LRC staffers by former Democratic Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis.

Marcia Seiler was appointed interim director Oct. 2.

The organization will also conduct surveys and interviews with lawmakers and LRC staff, compare LRC with similar legislative support agencies in other states and review managerial and operational aspects of the agency, according to NCSL’s proposal.

House Democratic leaders, all of whom voted against the contract, bemoaned the fact that earlier provisions to review LRC employee compensation and job classification practices were omitted from the final proposal.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he would have preferred hiring Lexington-based Hanna Resource Group, which submitted a bid of about $17,000.

“The first thing, if I were a private employer, I would want to know is what’s the status of my employees? Am I getting my employees the type of opportunities they deserve?” Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said after the meeting.

“… I think nonpartisan staff does a good job in my years here. I don’t have a qualm with that. I think probably some nonpartisan staff feel like they were passed over by Director Sherman and perhaps others who preceded him, and there should be a clear ladder for some sort of reward with compensation packages for good work and that sort of thing.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, though, said lawmakers would be remiss to conduct a comprehensive LRC salary survey without a director in place to have input on the agency’s structure. He noted the Legislature could perform such an analysis at a later date.

After a new LRC director is hired, he or she can help evaluate the need for a second survey focusing on employee compensation, he said.

“We know there’s some problems here,” said Stivers, R-Manchester. “I think we are just wanting to address it differently because we don’t want to do an HR (human resources) study, then change the model and then say, ‘Well, is that really applicable to what the HR study said?’”

Two female staffers in House Democratic leadership have sued Arnold and the agency in Franklin Circuit Court, alleging sexual harassment and lax corrective action when they brought their complaints to LRC management. 

Another court battle between a legislative secretary and Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, centers on allegations of retaliation after she said she discussed his inappropriate behavior toward an intern.

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