Sexual harassment

J. Tyler Franklin

Allegations that House Speaker Jeff Hoover and other Republican lawmakers sexually harassed a female staffer have rocked the state capitol in recent days, pitting political allies against each other and unearthing deep divisions within Kentucky’s GOP.

Hoover resigned from his position as speaker, admitting to exchanging “inappropriate text messages” with an employee.

But he denied committing sexual harassment and claimed he was the target of a political conspiracy to bring him down.

Thinkstock

The FBI has confirmed it is looking into sexual harassment in the Kentucky state legislature. The news comes a day after House Speaker Jeff Hoover admitted to exchanging inappropriate text messages with a female staffer and resigned from his leadership position.

Three Republican lawmakers have been implicated in the scandal and removed from their committee chairmanships.

David Habich, a spokesman for the FBI office in Louisville confirmed the agency is reviewing the allegations.

Ryland Barton

Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover says he’ll step down from his leadership position after reports surfaced saying he settled a sexual harassment lawsuit earlier this year.

In a statement to the media on Sunday, Hoover said he had acted inappropriately, engaging in consensual “banter.”

“But as inappropriate as those text messages were, I want to reiterate that at no time, at no time, did I engage in unwelcome conduct of any kind,” he said. “And at no time were there ever any sexual relations of any kind. There has never been a culture of sexual harassment, as some opportunist would now wrongly claim for their personal political gain.”

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin is calling for the immediate resignation of all elected officials and staff who have been involved in settling or hiding sexual harassment allegations.

The announcement came in a quickly-organized news conference Saturday afternoon amid allegations that House Speaker Jeff Hoover and several Republican leaders in the chamber had secretly settled sexual harassment claims.

Bevin called for the immediate resignation of  “every individual who has settled a sexual harassment case” and state employees “party to trying to hide this type of behavior.”

J. Tyler Franklin

A Republican state representative is calling for House Speaker Jeff Hoover to resign or be impeached, saying Hoover and leaders of the state legislature tried to cover up sexual harassment allegations made by a female staffer.

Rep. Wesley Morgan of Richmond said three other Republican lawmakers have also been accused of sexual harassment, though he wouldn’t identify them, saying only that they are chairmen of committees in the state House of Representatives.

Western Kentucky University has filed a lawsuit against its student newspaper, arguing that the school is not required to release records related to sexual misconduct by university employees.

The WKU lawsuit against the College Heights Herald comes after a decision by Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear in January that the university is required to release Title IX records about investigations of sexual harassment by employees. The names and any other personal identifiers were to be redacted.

The lawsuit was filed in Warren Circuit Court by Kerrick Bachert, the law firm representing the university.

Michael Abate of the law firm Kaplan and Partners is representing the College Heights Herald.

“We think here in this in this case that the paper was absolutely entitled to receive these documents," Abate said. "And we think it’s incredibly unfortunate that it has come to a point where the university is suing its own student paper over conducting important and essential journalism meant to protect the students.”

Jonathan Meador, Kentucky Public Radio

Update 12:49 p.m.
(From Associated Press report) One dissenting vote last week spared former State Rep. John Arnold from any disciplinary action stemming from multiple sexual harassment allegations against him. Now, lawmakers have taken action to try to prevent that from happening again.  

 The House voted Monday to change the rules for the ethics committee to require commission members to attend at least half of the meetings every year. The rules changes also gave the committee jurisdiction over former lawmakers.  The one commission member who voted not to punish Arnold last week says he did so because he felt the commission didn’t have the power to punish lawmakers who’d already resigned. 

Original Post

Two women who made formal sexual harassment complaints against former state Rep. John Arnold have filed a motion with the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission asking it to reconsider its ruling that cleared Arnold of ethics charges.

Kentucky LRC

Legislation that would make sexual harassment training mandatory for state lawmakers is on its way to the governor’s desk.

When formal ethics charges were filed against former Rep. John Arnold accusing him of sexually harassing three women working in the state legislature, lawmakers were up in arms about addressing the issue of workplace harassment in the Capitol.

The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission found Arnold not guilty of the harassment charges this week, prompting critics to question if anything could be done.

But an amended bill filed by Greenville Rep. Brent Yonts would address those issues by making sexual harassment training mandatory for state lawmakers. Currently, lawmakers do not have to take such training.

The bill currently awaits Gov. Steve Beshear’s signature.

Lawmakers To Receive Sexual Harassment Training

Aug 23, 2013

Kentucky House lawmakers would have to undergo annual sexual harassment sensitivity training under a resolution approved Thursday after three legislative staffers filed sexual harassment complaints with the Legislative Ethics Commission.

The allegations against Democratic state representative John Arnold of Sturgis triggered a public outcry, forcing House Speaker Greg Stumbo to address the matter on the floor Thursday evening. He assured angry colleagues the matter "will be dealt with responsibly" and that Arnold could be expelled from the House if the charges are proven to be true.

Arnold, who represents parts of Union, Daviess and Henderson counties. refused to answer questions about the allegations Wednesday and was absent from the legislature on Thursday.

In the complaints, first reported by Louisville public radio station WFPL-FM, the staffers alleged that Arnold had touched them inappropriately and had made vulgar comments over a period of years.