Top lawmakers have requested a detailed list and copies of documents shredded or destroyed Sunday by former Legislative Research Commission Director Robert Sherman.
Others are calling for an investigation into the destruction of LRC records by Sherman, who resigned Friday, and current LRC staff.
Sherman’s resignation — and the revelation that he shredded documents — come as the agency is entangled in a sexual harassment controversy.
“These records are not their records to shred,” Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, said. “They belong to the legislature and the LRC, so it really begs the question: What are they trying to hide, and if there’s nothing to hide, then why did they shred everything?”
Sherman did not return a call Tuesday seeking comment.
Assistant Director of Human Resources Roy Collins and other LRC staffers — reported by The Courier-Journal as Deputy LRC Director Robert Jenkins; Steve Kring, an inventory control supervisor; and Rita Ratliff, administrative officer for the legislative process — arranged to meet Sherman at his office Sunday so he could pack personal belongings and clear the office, Collins said.
Despite resigning Friday, Sherman still had his identification badge Sunday to access the Capitol. Collins said he took Sherman’s badge and office key before he left Sunday.
Collins said he allowed Sherman to return over the weekend out of respect for his former boss but added, “I’d do that for anybody if they’re not being disciplined but they’ve had to leave and they just didn’t want to pack up their office with all their coworkers watching.”
“He (Sherman) is not being terminated,” Collins said. “He was resigning voluntarily, and this was an opportunity to allow him to take personal possessions out of the building without everybody watching him walk out with his possessions like he’d somehow been fired.”
The destroyed documents consisted of interoffice communications, salary comparisons and the former director’s personal records, Collins said. No one shredded any documents related to the LRC investigation of sexual harassment allegations involving former Democratic Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis, he said.
“It was not sensitive information, I assure you,” Collins said. “The information that people would be concerned with, about the investigation that was going on and all that, he didn’t keep that information. I did, so he wouldn’t have had the ability to shred the originals.”
Nevertheless, legislative leaders want to know exactly what documents were shredded.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, sent a joint memo to Jenkins, acting LRC director, Monday evening seeking a description log and copies of all records destroyed, said Lourdes Baez, Stivers’ spokeswoman.
“I am disappointed that an appearance of impropriety may have been created,” Stivers said in a statement.
Thomas Clay, a Louisville attorney who represents two women on House Democratic leadership staff who have accused Arnold of sexual harassment, sent LRC General Counsel Laura Hendrix a letter Tuesday requesting the agency not destroy additional records.
An external agency should investigate the destruction of potential evidence, Clay said.
“It creates an interest that he (Sherman) was destroying and damaging documents that would compromise LRC’s position on the steps it’s taken to correct this culture because I’ve heard there were numerous other complaints on Rep. Arnold which haven’t been produced or haven’t been discussed or haven’t been disclosed,” Clay said.
“… Somebody needs to be accountable for Mr. Sherman’s conduct as a former employee of LRC.”
Marzian, too, said legislative leaders should call for an outside investigation, calling Sherman’s shredding of LRC documents after resigning “totally inappropriate.” She and Clay questioned whether Sherman and LRC staff had previously destroyed records before Sunday.
“I have no trust in what has happened since they did it (shredded documents) behind closed doors with nobody watching other than a few select individuals,” Marzian said.
Clay said his clients — Yolanda Costner, an adviser to House Majority Whip Tommy Thompson, and Cassaundra Cooper, an aide to House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins — plan to take legal action next week, but he declined to identify who will be named in the lawsuits.
However, LRC and the General Assembly are referred to as defendants in Clay’s letter. Clay repeatedly has criticized LRC’s handling of his clients’ sexual harassment complaints.