Politics & Government

Jeff Hoover resigns as Kentucky House Speaker, does not give up House seat

After a week of drama hanging over the Capitol, state Rep. Jeff Hoover formally resigned as Speaker of the Kentucky House Monday.

“The one thing I believe I am most proud of, is I believe people know that I am honest and I’m a man of my word,” Hoover said before handing a letter to a page that said, “I hereby resign as Speaker of the House to become effective if accepted by the members of this body.”

Hoover initially promised to resign last fall amid a sexual harassment scandal, but he didn’t do so when the legislature convened last week. On Monday, Hoover fulfilled his promise, resigning from the speakership but maintaining his seat in the House of Representatives.

“Mr. Speaker, I will be back here tomorrow to continue fighting for the people I represent,” Hoover said. “To continue fighting for the people of this commonwealth and to continue fighting for this institution that is more important than any of us.”

Over the course of a floor speech that lasted almost 30 minutes, Hoover spoke at length about what he had experienced since it became public in November that he and three other Republican members secretly settled a sexual harassment claim made by a member of legislative staff.

“Let me be clear: I made a mistake,” Hoover said. “I have admitted in front of 10 television cameras and 20 reporters or so and in front of my family that I sent inappropriate text messages. I did not do anything illegal. I did not do anything that was unethical. I did not do anything that was unwelcome or unwanted, and I did not engage in sexual harassment.”

House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said Hoover made the appropriate decision in stepping down as speaker.

“This allows the institution to move forward, especially with the tough issues that need to be addressed during this session,” Adkins said.

Senate President Robert Stivers said Hoover did the right thing to put the issue to rest, and Mac Brown, the chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky, said Hoover’s decision will allow the House to address big issues including pension reform and a difficult budget.

“This has been a very difficult and emotional time for all concerned,” Brown said. “Jeff Hoover has followed through with his word.”

Hoover will have to work with Republicans who called for his resignation from the House. They include Gov. Matt Bevin, whom Hoover said “told lies from the deepest pit of hell.”

House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne will continue duties of speaker of the House without the title until the House elects a new Speaker, which could be next year.

In the aftermath of his initial resignation announcement, Hoover said he lost 33 pounds and went into a depression where he couldn’t get off the couch. He said he cried uncontrollably and called out to God to help him and his family.

“The last two and a half months have been very difficult, for myself, for my family,” Hoover said on the House floor. “They have been difficult, physically, emotionally, mentally: every way possible.”

Hoover also made note of people he thought had wronged him in the months since the scandal. He took shots at the Herald-Leader’s coverage and at Bevin. He accused former chief clerk Brad Metcalf, without naming him, of orchestrating the scandal when he wasn’t given his desired position after the House won the majority in 2016. Metcalf was fired on New Year’s Day.

“It was discovered that he plotted, planned and schemed this entire situation,” Hoover said. “He orchestrated it out of maliciousness and hate toward Jeff Hoover. Why? Because he didn’t get a position when we became the majority.”

Still, Hoover made note of the blessings from the entire ordeal. He said his relationship with his wife was better than ever and that he got a wake-up call about his health.

“I believe, Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen, that troubles and difficulties and hardships are sometimes divine appointments from God, because sometimes he needs to get our attention, just as he did mine,” Hoover said.

Meanwhile, the Special House Committee charged with investigating claims ;against Hoover from eight Republican members will continue their investigation.

“The complaint asks for removal from office,” said Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, the chairman of the committee. “Unless the eight withdraw their complaint, we still have a job to do until the House tells us otherwise.”

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