FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky's Republican House speaker has resigned his leadership position after acknowledging he settled sexual harassment claims from one of his staffers last month.
Jeff Hoover announced his decision Sunday. He denied sexually harassing the staff member, but said he sent inappropriate text messages that were consensual.
Hoover's wife and two of his three daughters were in the room as he spoke.
Hoover says he will remain in the legislature. House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne will become the acting speaker.
The announcement comes as Gov. Matt Bevin is trying to push through changes to the state's troubled pension system. Hoover had said he would not vote for Bevin's bill without changes.
Hoover has been speaker since January when Republicans took control for the first time in nearly a century.
Rep. Hoover's full statement:
Statement of Kentucky House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne, House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell, Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher, and Majority Caucus Chairman David Meade
With each passing hour Saturday night, it became clear to us that the distraction of this matter was threatening to effectively halt the operation of the Kentucky House. The people’s business cannot be set aside because of a situation involving any individual member. Speaker Hoover made the right decision.
No one person is bigger than the institution to which we are elected, and nothing can be allowed to distract us from the tasks at hand: solving the pension crisis and writing a state budget under the most challenging circumstances anyone in Frankfort can remember.
With Jeff’s resignation, Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne assumes operational control of the Kentucky House of Representatives. We will follow constitutional and legal guidelines regarding House leadership moving forward.
The independent investigation we announced yesterday will continue. What we have seen in the press and on social media is troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. 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.
This leadership team is removing implicated committee chairmen from their roles, pending the outcome of the investigation. We will assess their futures when the results of the investigation are known.
We are meeting with legal counsel Monday to assess options regarding the staff members mentioned in the reports. We are committed to treating everyone fairly while respecting the need for the investigation to remain as independent as possible. We need a fully functioning staff to serve the Members of the House, especially as we work through the pension crisis. We will make additional announcements regarding staffing on Monday.
This is an unfolding situation and no one in the capitol has all the facts. We are asking any member of the House Republican caucus who is or believes they will be implicated in this matter to inform this leadership team immediately if their name has not already surfaced in the public domain. We were blindsided but remain determined to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible.
We thank Jeff Hoover for his service as Speaker and for agreeing to resign. A protracted fight among the leaders of the Republican Party, entrusted by the voters to govern this state, is not in the best interest of our Commonwealth.
To the citizens of Kentucky, we remain committed to solving the serious financial problems facing our government. You elected us to lead and find solutions; nothing will distract us from that task. We look forward to working with Governor Matt Bevin, Senate President Robert Stivers, and all members of the General Assembly to find a path to pension solvency and a viable state budget.
Below is a statement from the victim:
The law firm of Clay, Daniel, Walton & Adams PLC releases the following statement for immediate dissemination:
Our firm represents the complainant concerning the allegations regarding Jeff Hoover, and others. Our client had legitimate concerns about workplace conduct and authorized us to raise these concerns directly with Speaker Hoover. The day after our letter was sent, counsel for Speaker Hoover contacted us and indicated a willingness to meet and discuss issues raised, with a goal of resolving the situation.
Shortly thereafter, both sides agreed upon mediation. All parties negotiated in good faith, with a goal of resolving the dispute and ensuring the continued successful employment of our client.
As is customary in such disputes, confidentiality was important to all the participants. Our client was not coerced by anyone to resolve the matter, and has been satisfied with the resolution. She looks forward to moving past this matter.