Politics & Government

Former Kentucky legislative staffer claims ‘inappropriate sexual contact’ by Hoover

Jeff Hoover’s emotional admission to the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission

Former Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover was required to admit that he violated the Legislative Ethics Code after he agreed to a settlement offered by the Legislative Ethics Commission Tuesday, April 20, 2018.
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Former Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover was required to admit that he violated the Legislative Ethics Code after he agreed to a settlement offered by the Legislative Ethics Commission Tuesday, April 20, 2018.

A former legislative staffer has accused state Rep. Jeff Hoover of inappropriate sexual contact, including “inappropriate conduct in a parking lot of a local restaurant,” in a deposition she provided as part of a whistleblower lawsuit, an attorney said Wednesday.

The woman, who has not been publicly identified by the Herald-Leader because she is an alleged victim of sexual harassment, created shock waves in the Kentucky legislature last year after it was revealed that Hoover, who was then Speaker of the House, and three other Republican lawmakers had secretly settled a claim of sexual harassment by the staffer.

Her latest allegations are included in a deposition she provided in lawsuits filed by two others — one former legislative staffer and one current legislative staffer — who said they were retaliated against by Republican House leaders after reporting the alleged harassment by Hoover, said Louisville attorney Hans Poppe, who is representing the claimants along with Crescent Springs attorney Shane Sidebottom.

Sidebottom also said the woman, known in lawsuits as Jane Doe, testified in her deposition that a member of Hoover’s family threatened her. He did not elaborate.

Hoover’s attorney, Leslie Vose of Lexington, declined to comment after a 40-minute hearing in Franklin Circuit Court on an attempt by Hoover and two other Republican lawmakers — Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green and Michael Meredith of Brownsville — to prevent the public release of parts of Jane Doe’s deposition. The three men, along with Rep. Brian Linder of Dry Ridge, paid Jane Doe $110,000 last year in an out-of-court settlement.

Vose said during the hearing that the settlement included a provision that requires all parties to keep certain information confidential. She also said the woman’s testimony was embellished.

Jane Doe, who formerly was an employee of the House Republican Caucus, was subpoenaed to testify in whistleblower lawsuits filed by co-worker Daisy Olivo and former House Clerk Brad Metcalf. Olivo and Metcalf claim they suffered retaliation for reporting and speaking about alleged sexual harassment within the GOP caucus.

Metcalf was fired from his position. Olivo still works for House Republican Leadership.

Poppe was asked by a reporter to explain what Jane Doe claims in her deposition.

“What they are trying to seal is information specifically that pertains to allegations that Jane Doe made against Speaker Hoover — inappropriate sexual contact, inappropriate harassment, inappropriate text messaging, inappropriate pictures, inappropriate conduct in a parking lot of a local restaurant,” said Poppe.

He added: “She felt she had to acquiesce to Hoover because of his position of power.”

Poppe and Sidebottom talked to reporters after the court hearing, in which Judge Phillip Shepherd said he would try to rule “very shortly” on whether Jane Doe’s entire deposition should be made public.

Sidebottom said Jane Doe labeled Hoover’s behavior as “nonconsensual sexual harassment.” He also said her deposition was not on video.

Jane Doe’s attorney, Gail M. Langendorf of Florence, said in an email Wednesday that her client gave a deposition in the Olivo and Metcalf cases after being subpoenaed.

“She testified truthfully and accurately as to sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct while she was a public employee at the Legislative Research Commission,” Langendorf said. “She has no further comment.”

Hoover, a Jamestown attorney, stepped down as speaker last January but was unopposed for another two-year term as a state representative in Tuesday’s general election.

Hoover and the others have denied harassment. Hoover has said he did send the woman inappropriate text messages.

In a lengthy floor speech, state Rep. Jeff Hoover resigned Monday as speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives.

State Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, announced he will step down from his leadership role in the Kentucky House of Representatives on Nov. 5, 2017.

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