Kentucky House Republican leaders said Friday that they expect to get a preliminary investigative report from a Louisville law firm in about 10 days regarding allegations of sexual harassment and secret settlements by Republican lawmakers.
“At that point, we will review the findings and make further decisions about how to proceed,” the House GOP leadership team said in a joint statement. “We may — as some have suggested — decide to turn the matter over to the Legislative Ethics Commission, as they have unfettered subpoena power. We may also decide that our outside firm can complete the independent review. We won’t know the right path forward until we see the preliminary report, but we are keeping all of our options open.”
The lawmakers — House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne, House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher and Majority Caucus Chairman David Meade — said they “want the deepest, most independent investigation possible.”
Democratic lawmakers have criticized the decision of House Republicans to investigate themselves, saying the public deserves an independent review of the scandal.
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“As I have said before, I do not believe the House Republican caucus can investigate itself,” House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said in a statement. “This matter needs to be overseen by an outside group, such as the Legislative Research Commission or the Legislative Ethics Commission, and that remains the goal of the House Democratic caucus. Anything less would erode the public’s trust.”
The Kentucky Democratic Party also pointed out in a statement that any information uncovered by the House GOP’s “hand-picked law firm” might be subject to attorney-client privilege and never be revealed to the public.
Republican leaders said Friday that Osborne and Adkins have discussed the issue.
“At this point, the independent investigation is under way and should not be interrupted by politics or personal emotions,” said the House GOP leadership team. “The facts should be allowed to emerge and guide future decisions.”
State Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, resigned as speaker of the House Sunday after acknowledging that he and three other lawmakers had secretly settled allegations of sexual harassment with a staffer who worked for the House majority leadership. Hoover said he and the other lawmakers have denied any wrongdoing.
The accuser also alleged that House Republican chief of staff Ginger Wills created a hostile work environment in a settlement demand letter that she sent to Hoover, according to House Republican communications director Daisy Olivo, who has seen the letter.
The remaining House Republican leaders said Friday they will “make decisions” about the caucus and staff “when the full facts emerge.”
The other Republican lawmakers named in the demand letter — Rep. Brian Linder of Dry Ridge, Rep. Michael Meredith of Oakland, and Rep. Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green — were temporarily removed from their positions as committee chairmen by the House GOP leadership team Sunday evening, pending the outcome of the internal investigation.
The leadership team announced Friday that state Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, has been appointed co-chairman of the Public Pension Oversight Board, replacing Linder. The statement said two other vice-chairmen have been elevated to chairman, but it did not name them. DeCesare, who was a member of Republican leadership before the GOP took control of the House of Representatives last November, was chairman of the Committee on Economic Development and Workforce Investment; Meredith was chairman of the Committee on Local Government.
They said the House continues to work “in good faith with the Senate and the governor on the pension issue.”
“Our message to the people of Kentucky continues to be that we will not fail you in finding the facts or in solving the severe financial problems facing our state,” the GOP leaders wrote.