Politics & Government

Republican lawmaker files resolution to expel Jeff Hoover from Kentucky legislature

State Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, R-Richmond
State Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, R-Richmond Legislative Research Commission

A Republican state lawmaker filed a resolution Monday to oust former House Speaker Jeff Hoover from the legislature.

The resolution, filed by state Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, R-Richmond, said Hoover’s actions in a sexual harassment scandal “constitute disorderly behavior punishable by expulsion.”

The resolution says the House can expel a member under Section 39 of the Kentucky Constitution. It says the House and Senate may punish a member for disorderly behavior and expel the member with two-thirds of the chamber’s vote.

That means 67 members would have to vote to remove Hoover from the legislature. Such a vote also would provide fodder for political challengers during a year when all 100 House seats are up for election.

Hoover, R-Jamestown, stepped down as the House speaker Nov. 5 after acknowledging that he was one of four Republican lawmakers who secretly settled allegations of sexual harassment made this fall by a legislative employee.

The other three were Michael Meredith of Edmonson County, Brian Linder of Dry Ridge and Jim DeCesare.

Gov. Matt Bevin has urged all four lawmakers to resign their seats but none has done so. The Republican governor was rebuffed this weekend by his own party when the party’s state Central Committee rejected his request to call for the resignation of the four.

Hoover has acknowledged that he sent inappropriate text messages this fall to a female staffer but said he never had sexual relations with her.

Daisy Olivo, communications director for House Republicans, disputes that in a whistle-blower lawsuit filed Monday in Franklin Circuit Court against the Legislative Research Commission. She alleges that Hoover had an “inappropriate sexual relationship” with a female colleague and that she was told “prominent campaign donors” provided money for the secret settlement.

Through an attorney, Hoover issued a statement Monday denying both allegations. “I have never engaged in sexual contact of any kind with any staff member during my 21 years in Frankfort,” he said. “Never.”

In a telephone interview, Morgan said he would present his resolution to the House when Kentucky’s 2018 General Assembly begins Jan. 2 if Hoover is still in office at the time.

“I think Hoover will resign soon, especially with what came out today,” Morgan said, referencing the lawsuit filed by Olivo.

Asked if he will seek expulsion for the other three House members, Morgan said he “probably will file a resolution to get rid of Meredith because of what he did to my daughter but not the other two because I don’t know the details about their situation.”

Morgan’s daughter, Jordan Morgan, 28, said last week that she received “highly inappropriate” electronic messages from Meredith when she worked in Gov. Matt Bevin’s communications office from January 2016 to last June. She is now an assistant Commonwealth’s attorney in Boone County.

Jordan Morgan provided the Herald-Leader with messages from Meredith commenting on her physical appearance.

“Plus you are like six foot tall with jet black hair and high heels and can probably find some way to persuade anyone about anything if force is needed lol,” Meredith wrote Jordan Morgan.

She replied: “Haha yeah right! I’m only 5’10 but probably 6’ in heels lol.”

He responded: “5’10 can probably get anything I need done!”

Meredith has not responded to calls and emails seeking comment.

“Meredith needs to resign right now,” said C. Wesley Morgan. “I didn’t raise my daughter and teach her good values to be treated like a concubine to a state House member.”

He added: “I didn’t run for the state House to join a fraternity. All this really makes me sick to my stomach.”

In his resolution to expel Hoover, Morgan cites text messages exchanged by Hoover and a staffer, including one in which Hoover tells the worker “if you decide to send a photo of the black lace g string, I won’t share. For my eyes only.”

Hoover then thanked her “for sharing” and requested she “delete before somebody sees it.”

The resolution noted that Hoover admitted inappropriate behavior in his position as speaker “but he does not acknowledge that the behavior constitutes sexual harassment or creates a hostile work environment.”

It also said he entered into a confidential agreement with an employee that conceals from the public the nature of the relationship and the source and amount of payments to her.

“Hoover’s acknowledged actions are condemnable and have brought national dishonor and shame to the Kentucky House of Representatives,” said the resolution.

Meanwhile, two Republican House members — Ken Fleming of Louisville and Kim Moser of Taylor Mill — filed a bill Monday to create a tip line to confidentially report wrongdoing in the legislature.

The tip line would be administrated by the Legislative Ethics Commission, which would have authority to investigate complaints against lawmakers, employees of the Legislative Research Commission, legislative agents and any other person interacting with members of the General Assembly or employees of the legislature.

“In the wake of an ongoing investigation of a sexual harassment complaint in the Kentucky legislature and a groundswell of complaints around the country, the need for a process to report complaints to an independent party is crystal clear,” said Fleming.

House Republican leaders last Friday asked the ethics commission to investigate the sexual harassment scandal.

Jack Brammer: 502-227-1198, @BGPolitics