Rep. Wayne says he hopes Legislative Ethics Commission finds answers in sexual harassment settlement

11/18/2017 05:34 PM

State Representative Jim Wayne has two primary questions he wants answered in the sexual harassment settlement that caused former House Speaker Jeff Hoover to step down from leadership, and he hopes the Legislative Ethics Commission can answer them: what happened and how was the undisclosed settlement paid?

Wayne filed a complaint with the Legislative Ethics Commission on Wednesday, and although House Republican leaders have launched their own independent investigation into the matter, the Louisville Democrat says the ethics commission has far greater authority in such inquiries, particularly in its ability to subpoena records and put witnesses under oath.

Those were major provisions of ethics reforms passed in the early 1990s in the wake of BOPTROT.

“We ensured that the ethics commission would have the tools necessary to do any investigation of legislators that was necessary, and that means with subpoena power they can gather all the documents that are necessary, they can interview people under oath, including the legislators and anybody who knows anything about the situation,” Wayne said during an interview Saturday, “so they can do a much more comprehensive investigation of the facts so that we all know what’s going on, what has transpired.”

On Friday, House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne announced that House GOP leaders may refer their inquiry to the ethics commission after a preliminary report is filed by the law firm they hired to investigate.

Hoover, R-Jamestown, acknowledged the inappropriate communications with a legislative staffer, but he said their correspondence via text message was consensual. Others who reportedly settled with the since-departed employee include GOP Reps. Jim DeCesare, Brian Linder and Michael Meredith, although only Linder has confirmed his part in the settlement.

Osborne, R-Prospect, said he had already spoken with the Legislative Ethics Commission about a possible investigation on Monday, but he wanted to see what the law firm House Republican leaders hired come up with before reaching a decision. He said other government agencies indicated “that they weren’t comfortable dispensing personnel and workplace advice to the Speaker’s office.”

“Because we were kept in the dark about these matters, we did not know exactly what we were dealing with and wanted to ensure we had the best legal advice possible,” Osborne said in a statement. “That was something we could not find within existing state government resources, so we sought it externally. We promised to do this by the book, and that’s exactly what we are doing.

“Next week, I expect Middleton Reutlinger will fulfill its forecast of providing a preliminary investigatory report. There is a strong likelihood we will turn this over to Legislative Ethics at that time, but I want to see the report and get their advice before making the final decision.”

Wayne hopes Osborne and other House Republican leaders will in fact join his complaint to the ethics commission.

“It must be overwhelming to be in power for the first time since the 1920s and then have something like this tsunami overwhelm you all at once,” he said. “It sounds like they’re being extremely cautious, and I regret that because I think it’s time for them to stand up and to be strong and to say, ‘We’re not going to tolerate this. We’re going to get all the facts,’ and the only was to do that is with an independent investigation that’s nonpartisan, done by a legally established entity that has subpoena power.”

The Legislative Research Commission announced last week that no tax dollars were used in the sexual harassment settlement, and House GOP leaders said they didn’t know the source of the settlement money.

He isn’t accusing anyone of wrongdoing, but Wayne said he wants to know who paid the settlement.

“We know that in 2013 the settlement with the Legislative Research Commission cost $400,000 for the victims there,” Wayne said, referencing a case in which former Democratic Rep. John Arnold was found guilty by the ethics commission of sexually harassing three legislative staffers, “and so if you have something comparable here in terms of a settlement, you have to look at the resources of the four legislators involved and ask whether or not they had the resources at that level of compensation to finance that.

“If not, where’d that money come from? Was it from some political backer? Was it someone who wanted to curry influence with legislative leaders? I don’t know, but the ethics commission should be able to find out answers to all those questions.”

Wayne said he believes it should be illegal for secret sexual harassment settlements, especially in the public sector.

He said such arrangements impact not only the individuals involved, but also they organizations they represent.

“I’m a Catholic, and I’ve seen what’s gone on historically in the Catholic church in regard to private settlements on the sexual abuse thing, and this was done for years until finally strong people stood up and said, ‘We’re going to make this public,’ and when they did that, it helped cleanse the church of this type of a problem,” Wayne said.

“And we’ll always have these types of problems, but when we deal with them more openly, then it’s healthier for the entire system when it’s a higher institution, whether it’s a church or a business or it’s government.”

4 Comments

Comments

  • Raymond Hurst wrote on November 19, 2017 09:14 AM :

    The LRC says no tax money was spent on the settlement, but, they don’t know the source of the settlement money. What kind of ignorant statement is that? Oh, I know. It is a statement that says the people of Ky. are too stupid to understand what we just said. They DON’T KNOW the source, but they do know it was NOT tax money?!?!, only because the Legislature did not sign off on paying it? We’ll see. What is the secret of the source? And Jef Hoover resigned? He did not resign as a State Representative, so he has NOT resigned.

  • Cumberland Gap wrote on November 19, 2017 02:10 PM :

    Why is the writer describing this as an “independent” investigation when it’s only a Republican one? That’s so wrong. Where’s the editor? Plus why no info about taxpayer expenses going to the friendly law firm? This is one sided. Nothing independent about it

  • Cumberland Gap wrote on November 19, 2017 02:10 PM :

    Why is the writer describing this as an “independent” investigation when it’s only a Republican one? That’s so wrong. Where’s the editor? Plus why no info about taxpayer expenses going to the friendly law firm? This is one sided. Nothing independent about it

  • Ricky Lee Williams Jr. wrote on November 19, 2017 08:30 PM :

    The republican controlled House looks like the dog that caught the tire and doesn’t know what to do with it.

    Rep. Robert Benvenuti needs to step up here and lead this train wreck that is the House of Representatives. Period.

    LRC director, David Byerman, needs to be brought in and asked, “What is going on here?”. I stated on here that Director Byerman had the LRC in somewhat of good shape. After I wrote that comment, I got a ton of calls and information on how naive and foolish I was to think Director Byerman had everything going the way it should be.

    KISS, keep it simple stupid. Frankfort is a train wreck. The morale is low. Productivity is being affected. These are facts coming from the employees in Frankfort.

    We have been on here from the beginning of Pure Politics. The viewer group likes to use the analogies, you will see who is swimming naked when the current goes out. Also, from the Wizard of Oz, nothing is behind the curtain. My personal favorite, you can’t ride two horses with one ass.

    I was at the Kentucky Horse Park yesterday, for the Kentucky Book Fair. I was informed that the Courier Journal wasn’t the first news organization that had this story on Hoover. I was also informed by several different people, from different parts of the state, from both parties, of 4 names who gave this information to the media. Every single one pointed to the same 4 who leaked this information to get out, to hurt Hoover. The individuals who made sure that this settlement was made public, keep in mind a confidential document, are members of the republican party and affiliated with the state party at the RPK. This is a bombshell that is being vetted out that is going to change everything you think you know about the continuity in the republican party. There are 2, if not 4 republican hierarchies, who forgot Reagan’s 11th commandment. The best journalists in the state are on this like white on rice.

    I’m still waiting to see these leaders who on their campaign commercials like to say “trusted”, “bold”, “has our values”, “proven”, etc. I have seen senators and representatives lead like we knew they would in this pension crisis, but out of the hundred and thirty some in the General Assembly, it is a little embarrassing how little they actually know and how much they try to play the part, when we need our leaders to stand up. The majority are nowhere to be found. How troubling is this to the people, like us, who are in the know and follow this? We, republicans, control it all and we have turned everything over to the lobbyists.

    Robert Benvenuti needs to be the only one speaking on this sexual harassment deal. The way this has been handled is no different than what the democrats have done for the last 50 years. This stinks. Now, I understand many of our representatives can’t get in leadership because of their private jobs, but now is not the time to put out people with the right title and no substance. We cannot hide these people. Now is the time for our best to step up and help out here. This is one news story away from one of the biggest scandals in this state’s history. And, we know that we have had an infamous legacy of some doozies through the years. RL

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