Kentucky Dems, GOP Respond To Sexual Harassment, Assault Allegations
The Kentucky Democratic Party is calling for Republican state Reps. Jeff Hoover and Michael Meredith to resign in the wake of an investigation published Tuesday detailing testimony by a former staffer alleging sexual harassment by the lawmakers.
The woman alleged that Hoover sexually assaulted her more than 50 times, and that Meredith screamed vulgar comments at her. The woman, identified in some court records as Jane Doe, made the allegations in a sealed deposition obtained by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Kentucky Public Radio.
In the 270-page document, the woman alleged that Hoover repeatedly groped her without her consent throughout her employment with the House Republican Caucus between 2015 and 2017. Hoover has said that he only exchanged inappropriate text messages with the former staffer; on Tuesday evening, his attorney Leslie Vose said that pieces of the woman’s testimony “need to be examined more carefully.”
The woman said that Meredith screamed at her at a conference in Lexington, begging her for sex and telling her in explicit terms that he wanted to ejaculate on her. Meredith couldn’t be reached for comment.
Kentucky Democratic Party spokesperson Marisa McNee called for both legislators to resign immediately.
“The allegations are serious. The allegations are credible, and this is something that cannot continue to be hidden or glossed over, swept under the rug, by Republican leadership any longer,” McNee said.
Hoover, Meredith and former Republican Reps. Brian Linder and Jim DeCesare signed a settlement with the woman in 2017 after she brought unspecified allegations of “harassment, assault/battery” and “retaliation.”
The woman agreed to a $110,000 settlement. Settlement documents show she received $66,000 and her lawyers received $44,000. The settlement also included confidentiality and mutual non-disparagement clauses.
Hoover stepped down from his position as speaker of the House in January 2018 after the existence of the settlement was first reported by the Louisville Courier Journal.
Linder and DeCesare didn’t run for re-election, but both Hoover and Meredith were re-elected to their seats in the House.
Sarah Van Wallaghen, executive director of the Republican Party of Kentucky, issued a statement saying that “sexual harassment has existed in Frankfort for decades; far pre-dating today’s Republican leadership.”
“Sadly, it is only now being addressed in a real and meaningful way,” Van Wallaghen said in statement.
Van Wallaghen's statement didn't address the allegations against the legislators.
“The problem is not partisan, it is cultural and since becoming Acting-Speaker and now Speaker of the House, David Osborne and his team have been working hard to resolve the issue by changing procedures to help report and prevent future problems.”
Osborne served as the acting speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives after Hoover stepped down and was officially elected speaker last week.
Osborne removed the accused lawmakers from their committee chairmanships after news of the settlement first surfaced in November 2017.
But Osborne recently restored Rep. Meredith to his position chairing the House Local Government Committee. The Republican-led legislature has been slow to advance any reforms to its ethics rules, which currently don’t explicitly ban sexual harassment.
Kentucky House Republicans have not responded to a request for comment.