Jeff Hoover resigns as House speaker after acknowledging settlement of sexual harassment claim, will continue to serve in General Assembly

11/05/2017 05:35 PM

An emotional Jeff Hoover resigned as speaker of Kentucky’s House of Representatives on Sunday, offering the first details of a sexual harassment settlement that ultimately upended his leadership role in the House GOP.

Hoover, a Jamestown Republican who became the first GOP speaker in nearly a century during this year’s legislative session, said while he will relinquish the speaker’s gavel, he will continue to represent the 83rd House District in the lower chamber.

House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, R-Prospect, announced Sunday that he would assume operational duties of speaker.

Hoover, who did not take questions after his statement, said he received a letter from an attorney representing someone “making allegations — let me repeat, allegations — against me and others for sexual harassment” on Oct. 17 and that the lawyer sought a resolution outside of court. Attorneys for both sides set up mediation days later, and a deal was struck after they met, he said.

The Courier Journal first reported that the settlement was reached with a legislative staffer. Others accused of sexual harassment, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader and others, were Republican Reps. Jim DeCesare, Brian Linder and Michael Meredith.

“None of the parties against whom the allegations were made admitted any wrongdoing,” Hoover said. “In fact, all of those individuals, including myself, absolutely and expressly denied that any sexual harassment had taken place.”

“I did make mistakes in that I engaged in inappropriate text messages,” he continued. “I engaged in banter that was consensual, but yet, no mistake, it was wrong on my part to do that, and for that, I am truly sorry.”

However, he said that relationship between he and the accuser never went beyond consensual and inappropriate messages.

“At no time did I engage in unwelcome or unwanted conduct of any kind, and at no time were there ever any sexual relations of any kind,” Hoover said, adding that he has been forgiven by God, his wife and his daughters.

Hoover’s decision comes a day after Gov. Matt Bevin called for “the immediate resignation of every individual who has settled a sexual harassment case,” and at times the former House speaker seemed to offer shots at the governor, whom he accused of “grandstanding” in a Capitol news conference Saturday.

“In light of what has been said and transpired in the past day, I have concluded that there is no question that moving forward in the 2018 session will be difficult,” Hoover said. “I have been convicted of sexual harassment by some without knowing all of the facts, without an opportunity to even defend against ‘allegations,’ and I’ve been convicted by some without any grasp or understanding or appreciation for the law, which unfortunately has been exhibited all too often in the past couple of years.

“As we move toward the 2018 session, I do not want the story to be about me versus someone else. I’m not afraid of that battle. I would welcome that battle, but again, it’s not about me.”

Hoover noted that he had been vocal in his opposition to aspects of the recently unveiled pension reform proposal that had been set for consideration in a special session later this year.

Although he did not name Bevin, Hoover said he spoke out against comments insinuating that teachers hoarded their sick time and that he voiced his displeasure in statements during a Louisville radio interview that he believed violated confidential discussions on the pension reform proposal that had yet to be unveiled.

“When I objected, I was told that I was ‘disrespectful’ and it was insulting, I was told,” Hoover said. “There are other examples, but it’s fair to say I am not the favored legislator of some in this Capitol.”

Bevin’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hoover’s decision to step down.

Hoover says he leaves office with animosity toward none, “not even those who have been working and conspiring for months for this result nor against those who have used this as an opportunity for personal, selfish, political gain.”

Osborne, House Minority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, House Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher and House Majority Caucus Chair David Meade thanked Hoover for his service as speaker in a joint statement and said their independent investigation into the allegations announced on Saturday would continue.

The three others named will be removed as committee chairmen pending the investigation’s outcome, they said.

“What we have seen in the press and on social media is troubling and must be thoroughly investigated,” House GOP leadership said in the statement.

“We do not condone sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior among House members and staff persons, and it is imperative we find the whole truth. We are beyond disappointed that we were kept in the dark about these troubling issues, but we are committed to separating facts from rumors and providing a full report to the public.”

Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Mac Brown called Hoover’s decision “appropriate” and said he supports the independent inquiry into the matter.

“While it was personally difficult for him, stepping down allows the rest of the House Republican Leadership to move forward with the business of the Commonwealth,” Brown said of Hoover.

“Our remaining House leadership recognizes the importance of holding themselves to a higher standard. I want to applaud the work done by House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher and Majority Caucus Chair David Meade during this difficult time. They have the full faith of the Republican Party of Kentucky as they move the caucus forward from this difficult situation.”

Kentucky Democratic Party Executive Director Mary Nishimuta, however, accused Hoover and Bevin of attempting “to wield their power and maneuver for their own political agendas during this sexual harassment case, while at least two female victims, and possibly more, are disregarded in their wake.”

“While Rep. Hoover’s career as House speaker ends today, Kentuckians should consider it both vulgar and obscene that Gov. Bevin would speak out against sexual harassment when it’s politically convenient for him, but yet refused to hold the president of the United States to the same standard,” Nishimuta said in a statement. “This isn’t leadership, this is an abuse of power.”

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.

6 Comments

Comments

  • Ricky Lee Williams Jr. wrote on November 05, 2017 07:30 PM :

    First, I want to say that I have great respect for Joe Gerth and Debbie Yetter, at the Courier Journal. I have followed Joe Gerth’s work, since he was working at the South Central Bureau back in the 90’s. I consider Joe center left, but a man of tremendous wisdom and a lot of common sense. Even when I disagree with him, I can still understand where he is coming from. As for Debbie Yetter, her work, for years, on children and social service issues, cannot be quantified on how much she has meant to our state and being the voice for the most vulnerable amongst us. Both of them do outstanding work, on Comment on Kentucky, every time they come on.

    We found out today that attorney, Thomas Clay, out of Louisville, was the plaintiff’s attorney. I consider Thomas Clay to be a family friend. I haven’t talked to him in a few years, but I still admire his tenacity and courage to take the hard cases.

    With all that said, knowing the journalists who broke this story and the lawyer representing the client, there has to be more going on than what we have been told. I’m not saying that Hoover didn’t do wrong here, but what we know and has been shown on the texts doesn’t match how we have treated him. He is being treated like a monster. People aren’t going to come out and say much about this for fear of making one side or the other mad. But, I’m probably just dumb enough to do it. There is either more to this that we aren’t privy to, or we need to let bygones be bygones. This man has waited 20 years to be Speaker but hasn’t lasted a year after conquering the hill. I may be viewed as biased here, but I think this is over kill the way we this man has been treated.

    Nick Storm, I have talked to many over these past few days. I was on the phone last night until after midnight. I think it would do a good public service to bring in a lawyer or a human resource expert to help people understand what sexual harassment is, the do’s and don’ts at work, and in everyday conversations. I think it would do good for everyone to get a refresher course in this new age with all these devices that can destroy our lives with one touch. That is why I still have the old flip phone. I can’t even see the emoji’s people send me. There are still some good things about being old fashioned and not hip on this new technology.

    I hope no one takes this post wrong. I’m not taking Hoover’s side over the woman’s. I have daughters myself. But, there has to be more here than what we know, as of today. After Gov. Bevin’s press conference yesterday, I don’t think Hoover had much of a choice other than to step down as Speaker. I’m glad he is staying on in the House representing his district. RL

  • The Guardian wrote on November 05, 2017 10:59 PM :

    “Consent” loses much of its meaning when one person holds extraordinary power over another. It seems Rep. Hoover still does not get it.

    Also Mr. Williams, saying you’re concerned as a father of daughters diminishes women generally and implies they are not equal beings and are in need of protection or fragile status. I doubt you would have ever said, “As a father of sons, I am against assault.” Besides you don’t have to be a father of daughters to realize this is wrong. And yes, there is more going on than what has been reported.

  • JoeB wrote on November 06, 2017 07:48 AM :

    Hey RLW. There is no doubt in my mind there is more going on than we know about.I dont personally know Jeff Hoover but I think he was a voice of reason on this horrendous pension bill that the gov wants pushed through. Hoover wanted 30 days for his people to be able to read through it and discuss it with constituents before voting.That request has already turned out to be warranted as all kinds of sneaky underhanded crap has come out in that bill that will hurt state employees, teachers, and retirees.Too numerous to mention on this page.I know Hoover wasnt going to vote for the bill and I think maybe one of the other two legislators mentioned in the sexual harassment charges might have been leaning that way as well.No better way to lessen opposition to his bill than to ask them to resign.

    There has been a large outcry against this proposed bill by teachers and state workers. Ram it down their throat with a lot of these damaging items that were sneakingly put in that bill and its untelling what might happen.No doubt lawsuits will follow, possibly walkouts and strikes,new candidates galore running against legislators that passed the bill,etc.Teachers and employees as well as retirees have long memories.

  • AllPainNoGain wrote on November 06, 2017 08:04 AM :

    I think the lesson to be learned here to never, ever question or disagree with the Governor. He takes no prisoners. There is certainly much more going on here. The bottom line is that Hoover engaged in inappropriate behavior, that much we know. What we don’t know is the extent of that behavior…we can only surmise that it was much more than reported. I am actually pretty ticked off at Hoover for allowing the governor to get the upper hand on him. Who leaked the settlement to the media? I bet we can all guess at this point.

  • Ricky Lee Williams Jr. wrote on November 06, 2017 08:21 AM :

    I agree with you JoeB. Let’s wait for another thread to talk about this. My wife isn’t to happy for me posting on this thread. People are going to use this for their own purpose or color this the way they want it to be. With part facts and all ..

    The Guardian , I have 2 boys too. This is every parents nightmare that their son would be accused or involved in this kind of situation. I have nothing more to say on this matter. I don’t know enough to say more than I have above. RL

  • Heza Putz wrote on November 06, 2017 09:11 AM :

    Turns out there wasn’t much confidential about the confidential settlement, huh?

What do you have to say?





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