A Democratic lawmaker filed a complaint Wednesday with the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, asking for an investigation into a sexual harassment settlement between four Republican lawmakers and a legislative employee who worked for them.
“Our priority must be to ensure that all employees have a safe and secure workplace, one in which they are free from harassment and able to make complaints, if needed, without fear of retaliation,” said Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville. “We also need to seek transparency regarding the funding source for any sexual harassment settlements entered into by lawmakers.”
The ethics complaint comes 10 days after state Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, resigned as speaker of the House and acknowledged that he and three other Republican lawmakers had secretly settled a sexual harassment allegation. The other lawmakers were removed from their positions as committee chairmen, but none of the four have heeded the call of Gov. Matt Bevin to resign from the General Assembly.
Hoover admitted that he participated in the settlement, but admitted no wrongdoing and said there was not a culture of sexual harassment in Frankfort. Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, also admitted to participating in the settlement and apologized to his constituents. He too said he did not admit guilt in the settlement.
The remaining Republican House leaders retained the Louisville law firm of Middleton Reutlinger to advise them on personnel and human resources matters and to launch the first phase of an investigation into the allegations.
House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne said on Nov. 10 that House leaders expected to receive a preliminary investigative report from the law firm around Nov. 20.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Democrats have called on Republicans to hand over the investigation to the ethics commission, saying the House Republican Caucus cannot be allowed to investigate itself.
“The filing of the complaint with the Legislative Ethics Commission moves us in the right direction, because it gives us a path toward finding the truth of these allegations,” said House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins. “The goal of the House Democratic Caucus has always been an objective and independent investigation.”