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Beshear: Johnson Should Resign; Lawmakers Should Reveal Harassment Settlement

Andy Beshear

Attorney General Andy Beshear said that the state House of Representatives should look into expelling Rep. Dan Johnson, who has been accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old.

Johnson, a Republican, has denied the allegations and says he will not step down from his seat.

“I don’t believe Dan Johnson was ever qualified or should have been a representative in the first place,” Beshear, a Democrat, said during an end-of-year news conference Wednesday. “The type of hate speech and imagery that he had during his campaign plus these very specific allegations that have come afterwards, there’s no place in the legislature for him.”

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published an expose of Johnson’s life on Monday, detailing years of deceptive claims and alleged criminal activity.

The report included allegations from a young woman who said Johnson, a preacher, sexually assaulted her in a church basement when she was 17 years-old.

Louisville Metro Police Department opened an investigation into the claims back then, but closed the case after a short inquiry. After reporters asked questions about the case, LMPD reopened the investigation this fall.

Beshear said he was “disappointed” in the LMPD investigation as it was recounted in the story.

“When a law enforcement agency has a victim or alleged victim come forward and make the type of specific claim here, it should be thoroughly investigated,” Beshear said.

“If the report by the [Kentucky] Center for Investigative Reporting is true, then I am disappointed in that investigation.”

Four other Republican lawmakers have also been accused of sexual harassment. Former House Speaker Jeff Hoover, Rep. Brian Linder of Dry Ridge, Rep. Jim Decesare of Bowling Green and Rep. Michael Meredith of Oakland all signed a settlement with a staffer after she privately made a sexual harassment complaint.

Beshear also said that lawmakers should release details of the agreement and that public officials shouldn’t be able to keep details of the settlement secret.

“It at least appears to me to be a claim that would be made against the commonwealth and not just them individually,” Beshear said. “And so there may be serious problems with the confidentiality agreement where the commonwealth is or should have been a party to it.”

Beshear has filed a lawsuitagainst Endo Pharmaceuticals for allegedly pushinghighly addictive opioids on doctors in Kentucky and contributing to the opioid crisis.

He said he intends to file lawsuits against other companies “in the very near future,” but claims he has been blocked by the Bevin administration from contracting out the cases to private law firms.

“It’s not affecting the lawsuit against Endo, but it will be a significant impediment as we move forward and want to sue other companies,” Beshear said.

Republicans have accused Beshear of being involved in a settlement the previous attorney general made with OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma — a settlement Republicans say should have been larger.

At the time, Beshear worked for a law firm that represented Purdue Pharma in the lawsuit, but he repeatedly said he had no involvement in the case.

Beshear was elected to office in 2015, the same year as Gov. Bevin — neither man had any experience in elected office. Since then, the two have become bitter political rivals, with Beshear suing Bevin four times over executive actions.

During the end-of-year interview, Beshear said he hoped the relationship would improve, but blamed Bevin.

“The governor and I will only have additional litigation if he violates the law,” Beshear said. “The power of this office is entirely reactive. Those that stay within their constitutional parameters don't need to have any fear of lawsuits.”

Beshear said he hasn’t made any decisions yet on whether to run for re-election in 2019 or possibly seek the governor’s office.

“I know that the moment a decision is made, any and all good work that this office does is going to get loaded in even more politics than we see right now,” Beshear said.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.