State Rep. Brian Linder acknowledged Wednesday that he signed a settlement agreement with a legislative staffer who accused him and other lawmakers of sexual harassment and apologized publicly to his family and constituents for making “mistakes.”
“I am deeply sorry and want to publicly apologize to my family and you, the voters, who elected me to represent you, and the entire commonwealth for my actions that have led to this grief and embarrassment,” Linder said in a statement to the Grant County News.
The Northern Kentucky lawmaker said he signed the settlement in an effort to protect the privacy of his family.
“Ironically, that decision has put me in a place where I cannot comment on this entire situation in the manner that would clarify many of the misconceptions,” wrote Linder, R-Dry Ridge. “A portion of that agreement clearly expresses that all parties admit no wrongdoing. I humbly confess that I have made some mistakes.”
The Herald-Leader was the first to report Saturday that Linder and two other Republican lawmakers, state Reps. Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green and Michael Meredith of Oakland, were accused of sexual harassment along with state Rep. Jeff Hoover, who stepped down as Speaker of the Kentucky House on Sunday.
In a hastily arranged news conference Saturday afternoon, Gov. Matt Bevin called for any lawmaker involved in a sexual harassment case to immediately resign from office.
“The people of Kentucky deserve better,” said the Republican governor. “We appropriately demand a high level of integrity from our leaders, and will tolerate nothing less in our state.”
Despite Bevin’s statement, Linder said he has not been urged to resign by colleagues and friends, though he is still thinking about stepping down.
“I have been asked by many colleagues and friends to not make any rash decisions about a resignation,” Linder told the Grant County newspaper. “My wife has asked me to share with you that she supports my fulfillment of this term if I choose to do so.”
Pending the outcome of an internal investigation, Republican House leaders have temporarily relieved Linder of his role as co-chairman of the Public Pension Oversight Board, a critical position as the General Assembly tries to overhaul the state’s financially ailing public pension systems.
Linder, who has served in the House of Representatives since 2013 and has three children, said his job has been “especially hard” in recent months as he searched for compromise on the pension issue.
“I’ve been very vocal and firm in my resolve to find a workable compromise with powers greater than myself; at times, it has been very heated,” he said. “It has been very disheartening to see people take this private matter and use it as a means to jockey for political gain at the expense of others and their families.”
He asked for prayers as his family considers their next steps.
“We are taking some time to process the events of the last few days and we deeply appreciate those who have reached out to us in concern and support,” Linder said. “I humbly ask for your forgiveness and prayers for wisdom and healing for my family as we move forward.”
DeCesare and Meredith have not spoken about the harassment allegations since they were publicly named on Saturday.
House Republicans said Tuesday they had hired a Louisville law firm to advise them on personnel issues and to investigate the sexual harassment scandal.
Democrats, though, have urged Republican leaders to consult them before launching an investigation.
“We had our first discussion today with Republican House leadership and reiterated that the House Democratic leadership’s priority is to have an investigation that is transparent, thorough and independent,” House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said Wednesday. “We are still in discussions to accomplish this goal.”
In his own statement Wednesday, House Speaker Pro-Tem David Osborne, R-Prospect, said GOP House members had passionate discussion during a four-hour meeting Tuesday afternoon about how the caucus should move forward on the investigation and pension reform.
“It is vital that we get this investigation right, and that we not lose sight of the policy problems facing our state as we do that,” he said. “I firmly believe the Republican majority in the Kentucky House is capable of handling both issues. The message I took from the caucus meeting was: we will not fail the people of Kentucky.”