Eight members of the House of Representative filed a formal charge Wednesday calling for the expulsion of House Speaker Jeff Hoover following his decision to remain speaker even though he had promised to step down amid a sexual harassment scandal this fall.
The formal disciplinary charge results in the creation of a special bipartisan committee to investigate the allegations.
“We respectfully request under Rule 23A of the House Rules the formation of a committee to investigate the action of the member from Russell 83,” the charge, obtained by the Herald-Leader, said. “Which we believe violated statute, brought great harm to the body’s ability to conduct the people’s business and irreparably damaged the reputation of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
The complaint was filed by Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence; Rep. Kim King, R-Harrodsburg; Rep. Russell Webber, R-Shepherdsville; Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington; Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington; Rep. Phil Moffett, R-Louisville; Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown and Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Fort Thomas.
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The group is the same that submitted an open letter calling for Hoover’s resignation from the House of Representatives in November.
The complaint includes charges that Hoover sexually harassed a Legislative Research Commission employee under his control; that he created a hostile work environment due to inappropriate workplace behavior; that he used his official position to direct a coverup; that he paid money to induce silence from an LRC employee; that he used public facilities, personnel and funds for personal gain; and that he exposed the Legislative Research Commission to litigation and liability.
In particular, the charge says Hoover admitted to “inappropriate workplace behavior between the most powerful member of the Kentucky House of Representatives and a low-level employee.”
“The member from Russell 83 refuses to acknowledge that such inappropriate workplace behavior, in fact, creates a hostile work environment for Legislative Research Commission employees,” the charge said.
The charge also claims Hoover used state resources to “interview and intimidate” members of his staff.
House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne, R-Prospect, said he was unaware of any complaints filed Wednesday.
“I don’t know, I haven’t seen any,” Osborne said after the House adjourned.
Hoover did not respond to a request for comment.
House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins and House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, will each name three voting members to the committee, which will be formed Thursday. It is unclear if the committee will be given the power to subpoena witnesses. If the committee has a tied vote on the status of the charge, it will be broken by the chairman of the State Government Committee, Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville.
“We are going to put three strong members on this commission to thoroughly look at the complaint that has been filed and they will do it in a very professional manner and be able to look at the evidence that has been brought forth,” Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said.
Moffett said he could not immediately comment on the complaint. On Tuesday he said he was disappointed that Hoover remained as speaker.
“I thought it was an insult to every woman and clear-thinking person in this state,” Moffett said at the time.
Hoover’s status as speaker was once again a topic of floor speeches in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, said the mandatory sexual harassment training the General Assembly received in the morning caused her to question whether the body understood the nature of power dynamics in relationships.
“That position is under threat for the abuse for power, is under scrutiny, is under potential federal prosecution, for the breakdown of the abuse of power dynamics,” Flood said. “Not sex, not attraction, not those human endeavors, but the one we continue to ignore which is power’s play on human nature.”