Sexual Harassment Claims From a Staffer. Resignation Call From the Governor. Then Kentucky's House Speaker Stepped Down.

by | November 6, 2017

By Jack Brammer and Beth Musgrave

Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover resigned Sunday, a day after rejecting calls to step down by Gov. Matt Bevin and others who said they were disgusted by allegations of sexual harassment against Hoover and three other Republican state lawmakers.

Hoover acknowledged that he had "engaged in inappropriate text messages" with a legislative staffer in his office and asked the people of Kentucky "to forgive me for my actions."

A lawyer who has been in the House since 1997, Hoover said he never engaged in "unwelcome or unwanted conduct" and "at no time were there ever any sexual relations of any kind."

Hoover, who was elected in January as the first Republican House speaker since 1921, said that he and the three other lawmakers "absolutely and expressly denied that any sexual harassment had taken place."

He said he would stay on as representative of his House district.

A joint statement from the other House Republican leaders said House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne of Prospect will assume "operational control" of the House.

The House Republican leadership team said it will meet with legal counsel Monday to assess staff members mentioned in the sexual harassment scandal.

"This is an unfolding situation and no one in the Capitol has all the facts" said the Republican leaders.

There was no immediate comment from Bevin.

Louisville attorney Thomas Clay, who represented the legislative staffer who complained about Hoover, confirmed Sunday that she was in mediation with Hoover's attorney and was satisfied with the outcome. He did not elaborate.

The Louisville Courier Journal reported Wednesday that Hoover had secretly settled a sexual harassment claim brought against him by a staffer in his office. On Saturday, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported that the claim had also alleged harassment by three other lawmakers: Rep. Brian Linder, Rep. Michael Meredith and Rep. Jim DeCesare.

The Herald-Leader also reported Saturday that Daisy Olivo, the communications director for the House Republican caucus, said she was "basically put on paid suspension" for reporting a "toxic" workplace culture.

In a news conference Sunday in which he did not take questions, Hoover said he was quitting the speakership because the allegations against him would distract from solving the state's problems.

Hoover said his wife and three daughters have forgiven him.

(c)2017 Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)