Government
8:05 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Shredded Documents Raise Suspicions In Frankfort

A Louisville attorney on Tuesday called for a criminal investigation into the former head of the Legislative Research Commission who told a Kentucky newspaper that he returned to the Capitol on Sunday, two days after he resigned, and shredded documents.

Thomas Clay wants state police or the attorney general's office to open a probe into what kind of documents former LRC Director Bobby Sherman destroyed.

"I'm very suspicious of what was shredded and why," said Clay, representing two legislative staffers who filed sexual harassment complaints that led to the resignation of Democratic state Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis earlier this month. "The circumstances suggest some outside agency should inquire about it."

Clay said his concern is that Sherman may have destroyed documents pertinent to the sexual harassment case.

Sherman resigned Friday, but he didn't turn in his key card that allowed him full access to the Capitol until Sunday, said LRC spokesman Rob Weber. That card, Weber said, was deactivated Tuesday morning.

Sherman told the Courier-Journal of Louisville that he went with other LRC staffers on Sunday to clean out his Capitol office, and that, in doing so, he shredded documents. He told the newspaper none of the paperwork involved anything to do with the sexual-harassment allegations or any investigations the agency is involved in. He didn't immediately return a phone call to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Sherman said others, including Deputy LRC Director Robert Jenkins, were present when the documents were shredded. Jenkins told the newspaper only duplicate copies of paperwork that were in Sherman's office were shredded. He said all the documents are in other LRC files.

"When you do it at night, and you do it on Sunday where people are not around, ... it's natural for people to suppose that there's something sinister going on," said state Rep. Tom Riner, the Louisville Democrat who publicly aired the sexual harassment complaints in a floor speech in August. "In politics, you can't always take it for granted that everything is done for benevolent purposes."

In his letter of resignation, Sherman said he had been considering leaving for a while but wanted to stay through the end of the internal review into his office's handling of the sexual harassment complaints against Arnold.

Legislative workers Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper alleged in complaints to the Legislative Ethics Commission that Arnold had touched them inappropriately and had made vulgar comments.

Sherman said the internal review found that he and his staff had fully examined the complaints and had implemented measures to protect the women from further harassment.

Arnold resigned a week before Sherman. But that hasn't stopped House lawmakers from pressing ahead with their own investigation into the allegations against Arnold.

A House committee laid groundwork last week for the investigation, which could lead to Arnold being censured by the House, perhaps in the form of a reprimand or a fine. Had he not resigned, the committee could have recommended expulsion.

Arnold said in his letter of resignation that he has been "destroyed politically" and could no longer be an effective voice for his constituents.

Clay, who's planning a lawsuit against the state on behalf of Costner and Cooper, said Sherman's decision to shred documents is troubling.

"Certainly, the fact that he destroyed documents amid all this controversy raises serious issues about whether he did anything improper or not," Clay said. "All we have is his word for it."