- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky’s top legislative leaders have agreed to hire a permanent director of an embattled state agency for the first time in nearly two years following the resolution of a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers and Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo announced Thursday they have agreed to hire David A. Byerman as the next director of the Legislative Research Commission. Byerman is the former chief executive officer of the Nevada state Senate, a post he held while Democrats controlled that chamber.

Byerman will earn $135,000 a year as the director of the agency that assists lawmakers in drafting and researching legislation. His appointment must still be confirmed by the full commission, which includes leadership from both parties in the state House and Senate.

Stivers said the search committee believed “that Mr. Byerman’s qualifications, along with the way he conducted himself in his interview made him the best fit for the position, especially understanding the internal problems that we’ve had.”

The Legislative Research Commission has been without a permanent leader since former director Bobby Sherman resigned in 2013 amid an internal review of how the agency handled several sexual harassment complaints filed by some of its female employees. Sherman shredded some documents after he retired, and the Kentucky State Police launched an investigation. That investigation was still pending in January. A police representative did not immediately return a call for comment.

Two women sued the commission and former Democratic state Rep. John Arnold, alleging he touched them inappropriately and the commission did not do enough to protect them. The tumultuous lawsuit lasted nearly two years and eventually added House Majority Whip Johnny Bell, who fired one of the women who filed the lawsuit. The commission settled the case for $400,000 in July. None of the lawmakers admitted wrongdoing.

An audit of the commission by the National Conference of State Legislatures found commission employees were “frustrated and often confused” by personnel decisions. The audit recommended reducing the power of top leaders and implement annual performance evaluations and pay scales. Stivers said it will be Byerman’s decision whether to implement the report’s recommendations.

“He had read (the audit) before we had met with him and was aware of it,” Stivers said. “That was one of the things that impressed us.”

As the Secretary of the Senate in Nevada, Byerman managed 90 employees and a $21.5 million biennial budget. The Legislative Research Commission has about 400 employees and a $39.6 million budget.

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