House GOP hires law firm to handle investigation into sexual harassment allegations, settlement

11/07/2017 08:36 PM

FRANKFORT – House Republicans, who caucused for four hours behind closed doors Tuesday, are moving forward with their investigation into allegations of sexual harassment that led to a settlement with a legislative staffer and forced Rep. Jeff Hoover to resign as House speaker on Sunday.

House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, a Prospect Republican who has assumed operational duties of the speaker’s office, said in news release Tuesday that leadership has retained the law firm Middleton Reutlinger for the independent investigation.

“This firm has launched the first phase of the investigation we announced Saturday,” Osborne said in a statement. “They will ensure we are in full compliance with all laws and regulations as we deal with staff and legislators to uncover the facts. We intend to operate the Speaker’s office by the book. Lest there be any doubt, we are not personally involved in the investigation and have hired one of the best law firms in Kentucky to conduct the initial phase of this independent inquiry.”

Osborne said after the caucus meeting that Middleton Reutlinger has sent an engagement letter to the Legislative Research Commission on Tuesday and that he had not seen the document when asked how much the firm would be paid under the agreement.

Osborne also indicated in his statement that “new information regarding this unfolding situation” had been learned on Tuesday and that House Republican leadership had been “kept in the dark about exactly what happened.”

Hoover acknowledged on Sunday that he had engaged in inappropriate banter via text message with the woman, but he said those communications were consensual and that he did not engage in sexual harassment. He said others accused by the staffer of sexual harassment – Reps. Jim DeCesare, Brian Linder and Michael Meredith, who have been removed as committee chairmen pending the investigation’s outcome – also denied any wrongdoing.

“We are committed to pursuing a fully independent investigation so that all facts may be known,” Osborne said in the prepared statement. “We remain of the belief that decisions regarding legislators and staff involved should be made when the facts are fully known.

“Based on what we know at this moment, we are firmer than ever in our belief that a fully independent investigation must be allowed to continue. Clearly, things have happened in the background of the Kentucky House of Representatives that must ultimately be disclosed to the public.”

Osborne was not forthcoming on exactly what new information had emerged on Tuesday.

“We’re learning new things every day,” he told reporters after the caucus meeting. “… I’m not going to talk about personnel matters.”

Top House Democrats, however, say that all legislative leaders should be involved in the inquiry, including in selecting a law firm to handle it.

In a letter to Osborne, House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, House Minority Caucus Chair Dennis Keene and House Minority Whip Wilson Stone wrote that the House GOP’s selection of legal counsel to conduct “an investigation of harassment claims against its own caucus members cannot, by definition, be independent.”

“We would caution you not to pursue this course,” House Democratic leaders wrote in the letter dated Tuesday. “Instead, the entire Legislative Research Commission should be consulted for the purpose of determining how best to obtain the independent and impartial investigation we all know is necessary. Nothing less than public trust in the General Assembly as an institution is at stake.”

They asked Osborne to call a meeting of the LRC “to determine the most appropriate means of achieving the end we all know is necessary” and respond by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Osborne declined to comment on the letter.

Despite the ongoing controversy, Osborne told reporters that House Republicans are committed to shepherding a pension reform proposal through the legislature. Gov. Matt Bevin has said he plans to call the General Assembly back to Frankfort in a special session later this year.

“We had a very brief meeting with the Senate this morning and have staff working on that,” he said. “This has obviously kind of diverted a little bit of our attention, and we are not able to focus our full efforts on that right this second, but we do have staff and several members that are continuing to work on it every day.”

“We’re still going to the business of Kentucky,” he added.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

3 Comments

Comments

  • Ricky Lee Williams Jr. wrote on November 07, 2017 10:19 PM :

    Why spend a hundred to two hundred thousand dollars, when the FBI has already said they are engaged and looking into this so called cover up? I understand the need to show the public that we mean business, but I don’t get writing a check for an investigation, when we already know the best law enforcement agency in the world is all over this case and has interviewed over a dozen people already. What is this law firm going to find that the FBI doesn’t have and will be reporting when these charges come to light?

    If we want to be seen as the fiscally responsible party, this is not the way to portray that to the public. This outside legal counsel needs to be stopped before it begins. RL

  • Heza Putz wrote on November 08, 2017 08:16 AM :

    Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys…let them be lawyer/lobbyists and consultants and such

  • Ricky Lee Williams Jr. wrote on November 08, 2017 08:56 AM :

    Jerry Miller, Robert Benvenuti , and David Osborne has to step up now and lead us through this. We need these 3 to be the ones that speak to the media and doing the coordination behind the scenes of how we go forward. Trust and speaking candidly is a must here. The public is sick of the years of this kind of stuff coming out of Frankfort..

    Rep.Johnathan Shell needs to let these 3 take the lead for time being. This is hard for the most season members to articulate correctly. Rep. Shell is young and we don’t need to hurt or even have his career be ended here on this very difficult subject to navigate through. He took a shot the other day talking to the media. 24hrs later there was a however added to his prior statement. We can’t have that now. No good…

    I think we should be hearing from the LRC Director. Not about this matter , but on the culture at the Capital. I have heard the last few days of all kinds of things taken place under his short period as head of LRC. Sex toys being brought and sold on he capital grounds. Sex acts being done in offices and stair ways. Prostitutes being bought for members and staff at the Hotel in Frankfort. This is all crazy.

    Something is wrong and many have turned their heads to the acts of a few for some unknown reason. Once these stories hit the papers all these so called leaders come out in shock. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. Might be time the voters start to recruit new candidates to go to Frankfort. What we have now is either cowards setting in those seats , or they’re unable to see what’s happening right in front of their own noses. I say the former and the latter is their excuse.. RL

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