sexual harrassment

Alix Mattingly

The Kentucky House has voted to do away with a special committee that was investigating allegations that former House Speaker Jeff Hoover sexually harassed a staffer.

The bipartisan committee was created after 8 Republican lawmakers filed a complaint against Hoover under a new disciplinary rule last week.

The House voted 90-0 to abolish that rule on Wednesday.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky lawmakers attended a mandatory sexual harassment prevention session on Wednesday, a day after the House speaker announced he wouldn’t resign his seat amid a harassment scandal.

Rep. Joni Jenkins, a Democrat from Louisville, said lawmakers took the training session more seriously than in previous years.

“Maybe less laughter in the room,” Jenkins said. “I don’t think our capital is any different from any other workplace. I think there’s always the potential for people to abuse their power and to not be culturally sensitive and not be gender sensitive.”

J. Tyler Franklin

As a sexual harassment scandal continues to unfurl in the state legislature, two Republican lawmakers have filed a bill that would create a tip line to report wrongdoing and another wants to remove the accused former House Speaker from office.

Former House Speaker Jeff Hoover, a Republican from Jamestown, stepped down from his leadership position last month amid revelations that he and three other Republican lawmakers secretly settled a sexual harassment complaint made by a staffer.

Ryland Barton

A campaign finance expert says it doesn’t appear that former Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover violated any laws when he secretly settled a sexual harassment complaint. 

A whistleblower lawsuit filed this week by a staffer for the House Republican Caucus claims Hoover used funds from campaign donors to settle with his accuser and to keep the matter out of court. 

John Steffen, executive director of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, says there’s a difference between campaign funds and campaign donors.

"If it's money contributed to his campaign, then that wouldn't be something he could use the money for," Steffen told WKU Public Radio.  "However, if an individual that's a typical donor to his campaign was to give him money just outright, that's outside the scope of campaign finance laws."

Kentucky GOP Rejects Governor’s Call For Resignations

Dec 4, 2017
J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky’s Republican governor asked his party on Saturday to call for the resignation of four GOP lawmakers who signed a secret sexual harassment settlement, but party leaders rejected it in a move the governor said “speaks to the fact that we’ve got real problems.”

The Republican Party of Kentucky’s Central Committee held its regular meeting on Saturday. Party Chairman Mac Brown introduced a resolution that condemned “proven sexual harassment in any form committed by any public servant in the state of Kentucky.”

Report: Linder Confirms He Signed Harassment Settlement

Nov 9, 2017
J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Representative Brian Linder has confirmed that he is among four Republican lawmakers who signed a settlement with a female House Republican Caucus staffer over sexual harassment allegations.

Linder, of Dry Ridge, told the Grant County News that he wanted to publicly apologize to his family, voters and the state for his actions.

He said he has been focused on his family since the confidential settlement became public.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Speaker of the House Jeff Hoover has settled a sexual harassment claim with a staffer according to a report published by the Courier-Journal.

The allegations stem from early 2016, when Hoover was still the minority leader in the House — he became speaker after sweeping Republican victories in House elections last November.

According to the report, which relies on anonymous sources, Hoover last week reached a settlement with a female accuser after receiving a letter making unspecified demands.

NPR has placed its senior vice president for news, Michael Oreskes, on leave after fielding accusations that he sexually harassed two women seeking career opportunities nearly two decades ago, when he worked at The New York Times.

WKU

Attorney General Andy Beshear filed a motion Thursday to intervene in Western Kentucky University’s lawsuit against two college newspapers.

WKU has denied open records requests by its own student paper, the College Heights Herald, as well as the University of Kentucky’s student publication. The newspapers are seeking documents related to investigations of alleged sexual harassment by WKU employees.

The school also refused to allow Beshear’s office to confidentially review the documents.

Beshear released an opinion in January saying WKU violated the Open Records Act by denying the documents to the newspapers.

In Frankfort, lawyers for the state are asking a judge not to allow the release of documents that could include information on sexual harassment in Kentucky state government.

Louisville Attorney Thomas Clay represents female state House employees who say in a lawsuit they were sexually harassed  by former  Kentucky lawmaker John Arnold. They also allege they were retaliated against in a separate matter by current  state  Rep. Will Coursey. 

Clay said that in a hearing Wednesday in Franklin Circuit Court, Judge Thomas Wingate heard a motion to dismiss the suit altogether. The state argues that because the Legislative Research Commission, which is named as a defendant, did not employ Arnold, the suit is moot.

Clay believes the documents detail instances of sexual harassment beyond the Arnold case, and says that the state is dragging its feet.

“That argument is frivolous because there’s ample federal authority that says the employer has a duty to protect employees from harassing conduct even from non-employees of that employer," Clay said.

Wingate did not decide on any of the motions, and has yet to schedule the next hearing date.

The women are seeking damages from Arnold and the state for embarrassment, humiliation, mental anguish and retaliation, as well as attorney’s fees.

Jonathan Meador, Kentucky Public Radio

Statehouse staffers who've filed lawsuits against a current state legislator and a former lawmaker want access to a report their attorney said may include allegations of improper behavior by other legislators.

In Sept. 10 hearing, a Franklin Circuit judge will consider motions regarding lawsuits filed against Rep. Will Coursey (D-Symsonia) and former Rep. John Arnold (D-Sturgis).

The Arnold lawsuit stems from allegations that he sexually harassed and retaliated against Legislative Research Commission staffers. The Coursey lawsuit stems from allegations that he retaliated against an LRC employee after she made claims about his behavior.

Louisville attorney Thomas Clay, who represents the plaintiffs in both suits, said the LRC opposes his request for discovery regarding documents in the Arnold case that Clay claims may  include past complaints of sexual harassment involving other lawmakers and LRC staff.

Jonathan Meador, Kentucky Public Radio

After a nearly seven-month investigation, Kentucky State Police say they have found no evidence that former Legislative Research Commission Executive Director Bobby Sherman shredded work-related documents to cover-up information on sexual harassment within the state legislature.

KSP Trooper Paul Blanton says the acting detective on the case has finished his investigation and concluded that Sherman's activities weren't illegal and didn't involve a cover-up of sexual harassment by former state Rep. John Arnold or other lawmakers.

“The investigation into the destruction of documents to conceal this physical assault or sexual assault--there was no evidence of that."

Blanton says state police will release the case files sometime in the next two weeks.

Jonathan Meador, Kentucky Public Radio

After hours of deliberation and sparring with his defense attorney—not to mention the news media—a full quorum of the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission on Wednesday voted to reprimand and fine former state Rep. John Arnold.

It was the second, and final, hearing in the ethics case brought against the  Union County Democrat by female state House staffers. The panel voted 5-1 across three separate complaints to find Arnold guilty of violating state ethics rules. The commission found that he used his position to sexually harass and assault three employees of the state Legislative Research Commission over a period of years. In its votes, the commission reprimanded Arnold for his behavior and fined him a total of $3,000—or $1,000 for each complaint.

A member of the legislative ethics commission says he is stepping down from his position due to the panel's handling of a case involving former state Rep. John Arnold.

Vernie McGaha told The Courier-Journal that he already sent his resignation letter, but was persuaded by Senate President Robert Stivers to remain on the commission until it decides whether to reconsider Arnold's case. Three women testified during a hearing before the panel that Arnold sexually harassed them.

The commission voted 4-1 to find Arnold guilty. But state law requires at least five "yes" votes from the nine member commission to convict. Three commissioners did not attend the hearing and one seat is vacant.

The commission is expected to take up the case again at its next meeting on Wednesday.

Jonathan Meador, Kentucky Public Radio

The ethics trial involving a former Union County lawmaker accused of sexually harassing female state employees will begin Tuesday. 

Three of the women who brought formal ethics complaints against former Rep. John Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, are expected to testify at Tuesday’s adjudicatory hearing that will determine whether or not Arnold violated state ethics laws. 

Thomas Clay is an attorney for the women, and he expects the proceedings to go by the numbers. 

“Well I think it’s going to be a typical administrative hearing," the attorney said. "I think they’ll call witnesses. They’ll be subject to direct examination and cross examination, and then the commission will deliberate and make a decision, and hopefully the process will play out.” 

Calls to Arnold’s Bowling Green attorney, Steve Downey, were not returned. Downey has informed Kentucky Public Radio in the past that Arnold will likely not appear at any hearing due to what he says are Arnold’s declining mental and physical health. 

Arnold has denied the charges.

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