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Hoover Won't Resign As Speaker While Harassment Inquiry Continues

Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover is not resigning his leadership position, despite saying he would in November after admitting to confidentially settling a sexual harassment complaint made by a staffer.

In a statement distributed Tuesday, Hoover said he would temporarily give powers of the speakership to Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne while the Legislative Ethics Commission investigates a complaint that Hoover and his staff retaliated against another staffer for blowing the whistle on the allegations.

“When I announced on November 5th of my intention to resign as Speaker of the House, I felt, based on the governor’s comments, it was the best decision for me, as well as for my colleagues in the House of Representatives,” Hoover wrote in the statement.

Gov. Matt Bevin called for Hoover and other lawmakers implicated in sexual harassment allegations to resign from elected office.

After Hoover originally announced his intent to resign, some representatives have been gauging support among House Republicans about keeping Hoover as speaker.

Hoover said encouragement from others influenced his decision to reconsider his resignation.

“Almost immediately, I began hearing form members of the House, both Republicans and Democrats, as well as business leaders, political leaders and others across the commonwealth, encouraging me to reconsider my decision to resign,” Hoover wrote.

In the statement, Hoover said he would lend the speaker’s powers to Osborne “until further notice.”

Osborne wouldn’t say if he supports Hoover returning to the speaker’s chair.

“He has only indicated to me what he put in the letter today in the communication to the House. At this point in time I will do my job as the speaker pro tem that I was elected to do last January,” Osborne said.

Tuesday was the first day of the 2018 legislative session and, though Hoover was present for the initial roll call, he left the House floor as lawmakers debated new rules that would officially allow Osborne to assume the speaker’s duties.

Rep. Joni Jenkins, a Democrat from Louisville, said that lawmakers were avoiding a “hard vote” on whether Hoover should remain speaker and who to replace him with.

“If we vote for these rules, we are shirking our responsibility and we are not living up to the contract, the covenant that we have with our constituents to hold this institution to a higher level,” Jenkins said.

Courier Journal first published a report that said Hoover had secretly settled the sexual harassment complaint made by a former House Republican staffer.

Hoover admitted to exchanging inappropriate but consensual text messages with the woman. Three other Republican lawmakers were implicated in the complaint — Rep. Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green, Rep. Michael Meredith of Oakland, and Rep. Brian Linder of Dry Ridge.