- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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July 27

Herald-Leader, Lexington, Kentucky, on sexual harassment suits:

Kentucky is at least $400,000 poorer and none the wiser after settling sexual harassment and hostile workplace lawsuits against members of our state legislature.

The settlement came almost two years after two female employees of the Legislative Research Commission, which provides staff for the legislature, filed ethics complaints alleging that Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, had touched them inappropriately … and made lewd and vulgar comments over several years. They filed one of the two lawsuits resolved by the settlement announced last week. A second suit alleged that Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, retaliated against a woman who confronted him about sexually harrssing female interns and LRC employees. Coursey denied the charges.

The women … had perfectly good reasons for wanting to settle. Calling out people in power is a thankless risk. The money they receive, after attorneys’ fees, will not be much compensation for the harassment they suffered at work, not to mention the scrutiny and stress they and their families have endured since they went public.

Sadly, legislative leaders probably also had strong but not such good motivation to settle.

Thomas Clay, the attorney representing the three, said repeatedly that he would demonstrate that the harassment they alleged exemplified, “a culture (that) is much more widespread than just one representative and two LRC staff members.”

Clay’s an advocate so his words can be taken with a grain of salt but after two years we’ve learned little to set our minds at ease. Consider:

- Several state officials, including former LRC director Robert Sherman, went to court to keep their depositions out of public view.

- Sherman resigned on a Friday in September 2013 but returned to the office on Sunday to shred papers. A Kentucky State Police investigation found no evidence of criminal activity but it was later revealed that the KSP had not examined Sherman’s computer files, a routine investigative step in such cases. The State Police said they would examine the computers.

- Following Arnold’s resignation, the Legislative Ethics Commission initially cleared him on a close vote with only five of eight members present. A ninth seat had remained empty for two years. In a rehearing, with more members present, the commission found Arnold guilty of three ethics violations and fined him $1,000. Arnold is appealing.

- Legislative leaders hired the National Conference of State Legislatures to perform a management audit of LRC after issues arose about personnel, harassment and other procedures. A draft was delivered in April 2014 but not released to the public for a year. It described a toxic culture: “LRC staff are frustrated by an opaque, closed-door process … (they) do not know how to develop their careers in a management environment that offers few clues about how performance connects to promotion, provides little explanation about how pay decisions are made, inconsistently sets minimum qualifications for jobs, and rewards certain individuals with pay increases while other requests for an adjustment languish.” Despite this apparent crisis, LRC has limped along with an interim director and no significant reforms. Only recently did the search begin for a permanent director …

There’s also a fundamental problem that no new director can solve. It’s that the LRC works for the legislature. So, any effort to rein in an errant legislator is essentially an effort to discipline one of your bosses. Only legislators can solve that problem by establishing an arms-length and transparent process for investigating allegations by staffers against members of the General Assembly.

We are glad this settlement has vindicated the whistleblowers but sorry the citizens and taxpayers of Kentucky have been so ill served in this tawdry affair …

Online:

https://www.kentucky.com

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July 14

Daily Times, Glasgow, Kentucky, on clubhouse vandalism:

Sometimes, certain people engage in activities so senseless and inane that the rest of us are dumbstruck … Such was the case last weekend in Temple Hill, when an idiot vandal - or vandals - thrashed and trashed the Temple Hill Lions Club’s clubhouse on Ky. 63, apparently only a few hours after the close of the Lions Club’s biggest community event of the year, the Barren County Fair.

What a way to express appreciation for a successful fair, which officials said attracted about 7,000 visitors, the second-highest gate count in the event’s 61-year history. Thousands of dollars in damage was caused to the building, which will require extensive and expensive repairs.

“For a lack of a better term, it’s just a kick in the gut,” said Lions Club member William Myatt, who serves as fair manager.

Of course, it’s still unknown whether the vandalism actually had anything to do with the Lions Club or the fair. It could have easily been a random target, an unfortunate surfacing of abject ignorance at a moment of community pride. If that’s the case, it’s of little consolation to the club or to Temple Hill, but it at least makes the act slightly less obnoxious.

Obviously, far worse crimes occur, ones with tragic and irreversible results. The clubhouse can and will be fixed, and the Temple Hill community will be at its best as it rallies together to get the work done.

Still, the vandalism is particularly bothersome because it is one of those occasional reminders that our communities aren’t quite as docile as we want to believe they are … Meanwhile, we hope those responsible for the destruction soon find themselves booked for a long stay in a much less welcoming kind of house.

Online:

https://www.glasgowdailytimes.com

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July 25

The Daily News, Bowling Green, Kentucky, on combatting drug abuse:

In Kentucky, we are battling way too many deadly drugs.

The main drugs that come to mind that have become an epidemic in this state are methamphetamine, oxycodine and heroin.

These three drugs have taken far too many lives in our city and state, and while law enforcement officials are doing their best to combat these issues, there will likely be no way to eradicate them.

Last year, drug overdoses caused 18 deaths in Warren County. That number has remained fairly stable during the past three years, with 20 overdoses in 2013 and 18 in 2012.

As if battling these drugs isn’t bad enough, there is a new drug called Opana, a high-powered time-released opiate pill that has made its way to the black market in our city.

Thus far, the drug, which contains an abuse deterrent that prevents crushing the pill for snorting or injecting, has taken the lives of several people who overdosed on it, and there have already been six people arrested here this month for trafficking the drug.

Some generic versions of the drug don’t contain this abuse deterrent.

This is a very dangerous, powerful drug that was popular among IV drug abusers a few years back, and its abuse can be linked to the increase in new HIV cases, which is certainly another cause for great concern.

It’s obvious we have got to head off this drug before its availability because even more widespread than what has occurred with methamphetamine and heroine.

Drug task force officials in Bowling Green and Warren County say the drug dropped off for a while but is making a comeback. The drug sells for $100 a pill on the streets and gives the user 12 hours of medication, similar to the effects of heroin.

While this is a legal drug if prescribed, drug dealers are smuggling it into our city as if it were a street drug.

We have stated before that while we don’t blame the rise in these drugs in our streets directly on Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting System, or KASPER, we do believe it has indirectly contributed to the higher demand in this state for such drugs as heroin and now Opana.

We must seriously focus on battling Opana before it claims more lives and becomes an epidemic …

Online:

https://www.bgdailynews.com

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