Rep. Jim Wayne files complaint, asks Legislative Ethics Commission to investigate sexual harassment settlement

11/15/2017 05:39 PM

A Democratic lawmaker filed a complaint with the Legislative Ethics Commission Wednesday, asking the panel to investigate a confidential sexual harassment settlement that prompted former House Speaker Jeff Hoover to resign from his leadership post.

Hoover, R-Jamestown, admitted to reaching a settlement with a former legislative staffer as he resigned, but he said their communications via text message were consensual and that he and others named admitted no wrongdoing as part of the agreement.

GOP Reps. Jim DeCesare, Brian Linder and Michael Meredith also reportedly signed the agreement, although only Linder has confirmed that he signed the settlement.

All have been temporarily suspended as committee chairs pending the outcome of an independent investigation launched by House Republican leadership.

But Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, said in a statement that he wants the Legislative Ethics Commission to conduct its own inquiry into the settlement and answer “serious questions that have arisen about sexual harassment” in the General Assembly.

“Our priority must be to ensure that all employees have a safe and secure workplace, one in which they are free from harassment and able to make complaints, if needed, without fear of retaliation,” Wayne said in a statement. “We also need to seek transparency regarding the funding source for any sexual harassment settlements entered into by lawmakers.

“We can show that we’re serious about providing a safe work environment with the swift start of an independent investigation conducted by those with subpoena power who are free from political interference.”

House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, who has assumed the operational duties of speaker, announced last week that House GOP leaders have retained the law firm Middleton Reutlinger for their investigation into the matter.

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