UPDATED: Gov. Bevin calls for resignations of "every individual who has settled a sexual harassment case" days after report of House Speaker Hoover's settlement

11/04/2017 05:53 PM

FRANKFORT — Gov. Matt Bevin has called for the resignations of those who have settled sexual harassment complaints, an apparent shot at House Speaker Jeff Hoover, who has been mired in controversy since news of a reported settlement with a staffer broke this week.

Bevin called an impromptu news conference at the Capitol on Saturday to make his demand, which included a call for elected officials and private-sector leaders to either condemn or condone such behavior publicly.

The governor did not name anyone directly, but he alluded to those “who have been very much in the public discourse in recent days.”

“They take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution among other things, but they also take an oath to be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Bevin said. “That can be interpreted any number of ways, but there have been any number of allegations in recent days that would indicate that certain individuals have been anything but faithful and true.”

“Given the severity of these, the specificity of these, the nature of these, I am calling on the immediate and for the immediate resignation of every individual who has settled a sexual harassment case, who is party to trying to hide this type of behavior,” he added, calling such accusations “reprehensible” and “indefensible.”

“This involves both elected officials, it involves some who are not elected that are in government employ. They should not be in government employ. They should not be representing the people of Kentucky.”

Bevin did not take questions after his statement.

Hoover told the Associated Press and Lexington Herald-Leader Friday that he would “absolutely not” resign in light of the Courier Journal’s report, which said he reached a sexual harassment settlement with a staffer. He has declined to comment on the reported agreement.

He reiterated in a statement after Bevin’s press conference that he would not resign and said that he is “more resolved than ever to continue my work as Speaker thru the 2018 session and I will continue to speak out for all Kentuckians on issues of importance.”

Hoover, R-Jamestown, said he was stunned that Bevin would ask for his resignation and those of “other individuals who have no involvement in this matter” without hearing their side of the story and that Bevin did not give him a courtesy call “before his grandstanding today.”

“In effect, the Governor seeks to be judge, jury, and executioner without hearing the evidence,” Hoover said in a statement. “One must wonder why he is so motivated to attack us unless his goal is to remove a voice that dares on occasion to disagree with him as I have done when he has made unnecessary statements attacking our teachers, state workers and retirees who are simply looking for better solutions to very serious problems facing our state.”

Bevin’s news conference came shortly after House Republican leaders announced an independent investigation into the matter and a report by the Lexington Herald-Leader that expanded those involved in the woman’s initial complaint, naming GOP Reps. Jim DeCesare, Brian Linder and Michael Meredith as well as Ginger Wills, Hoover’s chief of staff.

In a joint statement announcing their independent investigation, members of House Republican leadership said they did not consult with Hoover on conducting the inquiry but notified him that they would investigate the matter, which they called “allegations and rumors” in the press and the halls of the Capitol.

The joint statement by House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher and Majority Caucus Chair David Meade, House GOP leaders referred to comments by Shell following a closed-door caucus meeting Friday that Hoover had “full support” from Republicans in the lower chamber.

“However, that support does not supersede the need for a full, independent investigation,” House GOP leaders said in the statement, noting that they would likely hire outside counsel to handle the inquiry. “And we reserve the right, based on the results of the investigation, to revisit the status of anyone involved, including Speaker Hoover.

“Our message to the people of Kentucky is that we take allegations of inappropriate conduct seriously. We must generate an independent report on the facts and make decisions regarding leadership and staffing based on those facts. When we make policy as the House majority, we do so in a deliberative, fact-based manner. That attitude will guide our conduct in this investigation. There will be no knee-jerk reactions, just as there will be no ignoring of the serious nature of the allegations and rumors.

“We intend for this investigation to yield not only the facts of this situation, but also to guide us as we ensure the Kentucky House has the proper policies and procedures to deal with matters such as these.”

House leaders said they would outline the investigatory procedure early next week, and Hoover said in his statement that he supported leadership’s decision to launch an independent investigation.

Other House Republicans, however, joined in Bevin’s call for resignations in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations.

GOP Reps. Robert Benvenuti, Joe Fischer, Kim King, Stan Lee, Tim Moore, Phil Moffett, Russell Webber and Addia Wuchner issued a joint statement calling for “the immediate resignation of all members involved in the confidential settlement of allegations of misconduct with legislative staff.”

“We likewise call for the for the resignation of any house (sic) member or LRC staff that participated in, or in any way abided in the underlying conduct or sought to intimidate staff, or otherwise obstruct the reporting or publication of the alleged misconduct,” they said, adding that that “are shocked and angered by the allegations of sexual harassment, none of which have been denied or even disputed.”

The representatives say they want to know who knew of the alleged misconduct, if anyone knew whether allegations were coming in advance, if anyone tried to intimidate or obstruct the alleged victim or witnesses, how the settlement was paid, and whether any government resources were used.

They say they have asked those questions “since learning of the allegations.”

State Rep. Wesley Morgan, a freshman Republican from Richmond who rescinded an invitation for Hoover to speak at an upcoming fundraiser, also called for the speaker’s ouster on Twitter.

After Bevin’s remarks, Kentucky Democratic Party spokesman Brad Bowman said he agreed with Bevin that those involved in settling sexual harassment complaints should resign from office.

“I think that sexual harassment is something that shouldn’t be condoned by either party and it should be investigated, and we cannot tolerate it or we’re complicit in supporting it,” Bowman said after Bevin’s news conference.

House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, called for “an independent, objective and full investigation” into the reported settlement.

“Those individuals who have been proven to have engaged in harassing conduct or anything else improper should do the right thing and resign from their positions,” Adkins said in a statement.


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