Politics & Government

Some House GOP staffers refusing to cooperate with sexual harassment investigation

House GOP leaders walk away after saying little about clean-up of Hoover scandal

House Speaker pro tempore David Osborne told reporters Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, that the sexual harassment scandal in the House has diverted attention from the pension reform bill but he said little new about the scandal.
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House Speaker pro tempore David Osborne told reporters Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, that the sexual harassment scandal in the House has diverted attention from the pension reform bill but he said little new about the scandal.

At least two members of current House Republican staff are refusing to cooperate with the independent law firm hired to conduct an investigation into a sexual harassment settlement made by former House Speaker Jeff Hoover and three other members of the House Republican Caucus.

Citing that lack of cooperation, the law firm has asked current House Republican Leadership for an extension on its preliminary report.

“Most members of your staff and caucus have been extremely cooperative and helpful,” a memo from the law firm, Middleton Reutlinger, said. “There are, however, current and former staff members refusing to cooperate. This lack of cooperation has delayed our report and would jeopardize its thoroughness; we hope they will reconsider in the days ahead.”

In their memo, the lawyers from Middleton Reutlinger did not say how many members of the staff are not cooperating with the investigation or why they have chosen not to cooperate.

Some members of the staff are deeply involved in the harassment scandal.

House Republican chief of staff Ginger Wills was named in the demand letter, according to Communications Director Daisy Olivo, who has seen the letter. Olivo has also said Wills is involved in the settlement.

Olivo is also involved. She told the Herald-Leader that she approached Hoover about a toxic work environment in September, only to be slowly isolated from the inner workings of the office. The day after she approached the Legislative Research Commission about her concerns in November, she was relieved of her duty of communicating with the press, the primary responsibility of a communications director.

The same day current Republican leadership announced they hired Middleton Reutlinger to advise them on personnel and human resources issues, along with the investigation, Olivo resumed her responsibility of communicating with the press.

House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne, R-Prospect, said he was “disappointed in the procedural delays” the investigators have experienced and said he expects a report from the firm on Dec. 1.

“Most everyone contacted has been cooperative; it is unfortunate that some people have, so far, chosen not to cooperate,” Osborne said. “I remain hopeful everyone contacted will participate in the preliminary phase of this investigation. New information comes forth with each interview, and it is vital the public ultimately have a full accounting of what occurred.”

Current House leadership has continued to say they condemn sexual harassment, but are waiting until an independent investigation has concluded before they reach any conclusions about the situation. Osborne said leadership is considering turning over the investigation to an investigatory agency with the ability to “compel information from key people and witnesses.”

On Tuesday, Gov. Matt Bevin reiterated his call for all the members involved to resign from their seats in the General Assembly. All four members involved have either stepped down or been removed from their positions of leadership, but none have resigned.

Lawyers from Middleton Reutlinger said they are reviewing the available documents related to the investigation and are hoping to interview all the people reported to be involved in the settlement. Both Hoover and Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, have said they cannot talk about the details of the settlement with the public.

“We anticipate several of those individuals cooperating with our investigation within the next week, and their cooperation will greatly enhance the thoroughness of the report,” the memo said.

Osborne also said House leadership is talking to members of the General Assembly in both parties about reforming the legislature’s processes and procedures regarding workplace matters.

The current personnel policy (including harassment policy) is set by the leadership of each respective party, a process that at least one expert said appears “inadequate.

Daniel Desrochers: 502-875-3793, @drdesrochers, @BGPolitics

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