Politics & Government

House GOP leaders: Was ethics panel aware of staffer’s assault allegations against ex-speaker?

‘Put partisanship aside, deal with the facts.’ Committee meets on Hoover complaint.

State Rep. Jerry Miller, a Louisville Republican who is chairing a special House panel to consider possible expulsion of House Speaker Jeff Hoover, offered recommendations Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, to panel members at their first meeting.
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State Rep. Jerry Miller, a Louisville Republican who is chairing a special House panel to consider possible expulsion of House Speaker Jeff Hoover, offered recommendations Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, to panel members at their first meeting.

House Republican leaders asked the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission on Thursday if the watchdog panel had information from a former staffer’s sealed deposition made public this week that claimed sexual harassment by Rep. Jeff Hoover and other lawmakers.

House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, said in a statement Thursday that House GOP leadership wants to know if the Legislative Ethics Commission were aware of details alleged in the deposition when it investigated Hoover and other lawmakers last year.



Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, had filed a complaint with the commission, which initiated its investigation.

“We will wait to hear from the Ethics Commission, but Kentuckians can be certain that we will remain vigilant in our efforts to provide a safe, productive workplace for all of our employees,” Osborne said.

He added that House Republican leadership “takes all allegations of a hostile work environment seriously.”

John Schaaf, executive director of the Legislative Ethics Commission, said, “We will respond to the speaker’s request.” He did not elaborate. It is not clear if the ethics panel can re-hear a case.

The commission and Hoover last April reached a settlement a little more than five months after Hoover and three other lawmakers reached a $110,000 settlement with a staffer who claimed sexual harassment.

With the ethics board, Hoover, R-Jamestown, agreed to admit that he violated legislative ethics laws, paid a $1,000 fine and subjected himself to a public reprimand. In exchange, he retained his seat in the state House while keeping secret details of his alleged harassment of the former House Republican staffer.

Hoover, who had no opposition in his re-election bid last year, has maintained that he never had any sexual contact with the staffer but did share inappropriate texts with her. He stepped down as speaker last January in wake of sexual allegations by the staffer.

The staffer, referred to as “Jane Doe,” testified in a deposition last October for lawsuits filed by two former staffers against the Legislative Research Commission. They allege they were retaliated against for reporting Jane Doe’s sexual harassment allegations. A judge temporarily sealed the transcript of her deposition.

But the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Kentucky Public Radio reported Tuesday night that Jane Doe said in the deposition that Hoover assaulted her more than 50 times during her employment from 2015 to 2017.

Neither Hoover nor his attorney, Leslie Vose of Lexington, has commented on the report.

Osborne did not address in his statement Thursday a call this week from the Kentucky Democratic Party for Hoover and Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Brownsville, to resign.

Jane Doe said in her deposition that Meredith made a vulgar statement to her. Meredith has not returned phone calls seeking comment.

Meanwhile, former Republican state Rep. Brad Montell of Shelbyville, who also was mentioned in Jane Doe’s deposition, posted on his Twitter page that he resigned as director of government relations for the state Department of Education Wednesday to avoid “creating a distraction.”

He said Gov. Matt Bevin and Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis “graciously accepted my letter of resignation.”

“It as an honor and privilege to serve such an important cause, and I offered my resignation to prevent recent events from creating a distraction from these important objectives,” said Montell.

He said as he leaves 16 years of public life, “I humbly ask for privacy at this time.”



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