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New Bills Target Statehouse Harassment, Former Speaker Hoover

J. Tyler Franklin / KyCIR

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.

Hoover admitted to exchanging inappropriate text messages with the woman but denied sexually harassing her. Rep. Wesley Morgan, a Republican from Richmond, has filed a bill to remove Hoover from elected office, citing “disorderly behavior punishable by expulsion under Section 39 of the Kentucky Constitution.”

And GOP Reps. Ken Fleming, of Louisville, and Kim Moser, of Taylor Mill, have filed a bill that would create a tip line to report complaints against members of the legislature.

“In the wake of an ongoing investigation of a sexual harassment complaint in the Kentucky Legislature and a groundswell of complaints around the country, the need for a process to report complaints to an independent party is crystal clear,” Fleming said in a statement.The tip line would be administered by the Legislative Ethics Commission, which would review complaints within two hours of receiving them on the 24-hour tip line.

The commission would then have 24 hours to notify accused officials and 30 days to give a status update on the complaint to the head of the administrative arm of the legislature, the Legislative Research Commission.

Earlier this week, an employee of Hoover’s office filed a lawsuit alleging she faced retaliation for reporting an inappropriate relationship between the former speaker and staffer who accused him of harassment.

The lawsuit also alleges that Hoover, and GOP Reps. Brian Linder of Dry Ridge, Michael Meredith of Oakland, and Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green, used funds from “prominent campaign donors” to settle the complaint.

Meanwhile Gov. Matt Bevin has repeatedly called for Hoover and the other lawmakers to resign. On WLAP’s Leland Conway show, Bevin called the scandal a “stain on who we are as a commonwealth.”

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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