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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's legislative leaders have hired an outside attorney to represent the General Assembly in a federal lawsuit alleging that state Attorney General Curtis Hill drunkenly groped four women during a party marking the end of last year's legislative session.

A state lawmaker and three legislative staffers sued Hill and the state of Indiana last month, accusing Hill of groping them at an Indianapolis bar, and accusing him of sexual harassment and defamation.

Their suit seeks unspecified monetary damages from the state and Hill personally, an apology from Hill for his denials and an injunction ordering the state to adopt tougher sexual harassment policies.

Although the Indiana House and Senate aren't named as defendants in the suit, the leaders of both chambers want to intervene in the complaint, The Journal Gazette reported.

Indiana's attorney general typically represents state agencies and offices in lawsuits, but House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said that option isn't workable in this case.

"Given the nature of this matter, we believe that independent legal counsel should represent the House and Senate. That's why we hired an experienced employment attorney to intervene in the lawsuit and represent our interests as the employer of three of the four plaintiffs," Bosma said Monday in a statement.

The House and Senate hired Indianapolis attorney Susan Zoeller of the labor and employment law firm Jackson Lewis P.C. Zoeller helped the House and Senate refine and craft new sexual harassment policies implemented earlier this year.

Bray said Zoeller was hired as outside counsel "to avoid any conflict or even the appearance of a conflict with the attorney general, who is also a party in this lawsuit."

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"Zoeller has become a trusted adviser for the House and Senate in these matters, and we believe she will provide the guidance we need. The health and safety of our employees is paramount," Bray added in a statement.

Hill is accused of touching the backs or backsides of the women — Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon of Munster, one Republican legislative staffer and two Democratic legislative aides— in March 2018 at an Indianapolis bar, where a party was underway to celebrate the end of the legislative session.

He has rebuffed calls from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state officials to resign, but also faces an upcoming state disciplinary hearing that could threaten his law license.

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Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net

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