LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Calls are growing louder for Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover to resign following a report he settled a sexual harassment claim involving one of his staffers.
Governor Matt Bevin called an unusual press conference Saturday in Frankfort to address the situation.
Bevin didn’t mention Rep. Hoover by name but said, “These alleged actions, which haven’t been denied, are reprehensible, indefensible and unacceptable. Any elected official or state employee who has settled a sexual harassment claim should resign immediately," said Gov. Bevin. "The people of Kentucky deserve better. We appropriately demand a high level of integrity from our leaders, and will tolerate nothing less in our state."
Statement from Gov. Matt Bevin on Alleged Misconduct from Members of— Governor Matt Bevin (@GovMattBevin) November 4, 2017
House of Representatives pic.twitter.com/7WQ0NqY8s8
Bevin made it clear in his speech that when Republicans were elected in 2016 and took control of both the state Senate and House, it was up to them to change the tone in Frankfort.
“We have been given a responsibility and frankly a mandate from the people of Kentucky for a fresh start,” he said. “That fresh start would encompass many things, not the least of which is a change in culture.”
He says those mentioned in the allegations “have been anything but faithful and true” to the Commonwealth of Kentucky when taking their oath of office.
According to the Courier-Journal report, the young staffer threatened to derail his leadership role and the pension reform bill debate.
House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell said Rep. Hoover had the full support of the Republican Caucus.
Their full statement:
Because of the allegations and rumors swirling in the media and in the capitol, the majority leadership team of the Kentucky House of Representatives is taking steps to launch an independent investigation so that Members of the House and the general public may know the facts.
Because the rumors involve the Speaker of the House, other State Representatives, and members of the House staff, the leadership team concluded that we must find the truth immediately to assure the public that the new Republican majority takes this matter seriously. We are not going to operate on rumor and innuendo; we are going to make decisions based on facts.
We have consulted legal counsel and believe that Speaker Pro Tempore Osborne has the authority, under the Rules of the House, to launch an independent investigation. We did not consult Speaker Jeff Hoover when making this decision, but we have since informed him about what we intend to do.
We are working through the procedural details and will report to the entire House, the media, and the public early this week when an investigatory procedure is finalized. Our intention is to hire an outside law firm to conduct this independent inquiry, but the final procedure is yet to be determined. We also intend to consult with the Legislative Research Commission to better understand the procedures necessary to give the investigators subpoena power.
As Majority Leader Shell stated Friday, Speaker Hoover, as of now, has the support of the Republican caucus to remain in his leadership position. However, that support does not supersede the need for a full, independent investigation. 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.
The Kentucky House Democratic leaders have also responded:
“The House Democratic Caucus is against workplace harassment in any shape or form, and given the allegations that have been publicized today and in the recent past, it is necessary that an independent, objective and full investigation be done. 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.” – Kentucky House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has also weighed in on the issue:
"It is the obligation of state employees...to maintain workplaces where every colleague & constituent is respected." pic.twitter.com/22Nvn0Ue8u— Alison L. Grimes (@KySecofState) November 4, 2017
Without reservation I condemn the sexual harassment culture I believe to be prevalent in the Republican Speaker's Office. pic.twitter.com/5PoZ981R5E— Phil Moffett (@philmoffett) November 5, 2017