Franklin County judge changes order, delays ruling on unsealing depositions in harassment case

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FRANKFORT, Kentucky — A Franklin County judge on Wednesday put off ruling on the request of lieutenant governor candidate Sannie Overly to seal her deposition in a legislative sexual harassment case.

Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate's order also affects a similar request by former Legislative Research Commission director Bobby Sherman.

Wingate granted motions by The Courier-Journal and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting to intervene and initially signed an order saying he had turned down requests to permanently seal Overly's and Sherman's depositions, the Lexington Herald-Leader (http://bit.ly/1FM2VOG) said.

A few hours later, he issued a new order saying he had "inadvertently signed" a proposed order and clarifying that Overly's and Sherman's motions to seal their depositions are not denied. He said the issue of whether to unseal them has been temporarily postponed.

The judge temporarily sealed all testimony in the case earlier this month.

Louisville lawyer Thomas Clay, who represents two women who brought the harassment case against a former lawmaker, has said he wants to ask Overly about any sexual harassment she might have experienced in the legislature.

Overly is running on a ticket with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway. Her lawyer, Anita Britton of Lexington, has said if the deposition became public, Overly's words could be taken out of context for political reasons.

On Tuesday, Wingate denied a request from House Majority Whip Johnny Bell to be dismissed as a defendant in the lawsuit, saying it would be premature to do so.

After he was elected majority whip in January, Bell fired one of the staffers who filed the sexual harassment complaint in 2013 against John Arnold, a former state representative. Arnold denied the claims but resigned his seat.

The staffer claimed that Bell unfairly dismissed her after his leadership election because she blew the whistle on Arnold. Bell denied the claim, saying all three staffers who worked for the previous whip were no longer in the office.


Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com

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