RAW VIDEO | Rep. Jeff Hoover resigns as Speaker of the House amid allegations of sexual harassment
Jeff Hoover announced Sunday during a press conference with reporters that he is stepping down as House speaker amid sexual assault allegations effective immediately.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Republican Rep. Jeff Hoover announced Sunday that he will step down as Kentucky Speaker of the House effective immediately.
House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne will assume the role, and Hoover will remain a Representative in the House.
These announcements came amid reports stating Hoover had agreed upon a settlement with a female aid over allegations of sexual harassment.
"The decision today is what is best for Kentucky, what is best for the House of Representatives," Hoover (R-Jamestown) said in a prepared statement.
Attorney Thomas Clay, who represents the accuser, said in a statement that his client had "legitimate concerns about workplace conduct and authorized us to raise these concerns directly with Speaker Hoover."
"The day after our letter was sent, counsel for Speaker Hoover contacted us and indicated a willingness to meet and discuss the issues raised with a goal of resolving the situation. Shortly thereafter both sides agreed upon a mediation," Clay said. "All parties negotiated in good faith with a goal of resolving the dispute and ensuring the continued successful employment of our client. As is customary in such disputes confidentiality was important to all the participants. Our client was not coerced by anyone to resolve the matter and has been satisfied with the resolution. She looks forward to moving past this matter."
Sunday's announcement followed a press conference held by Governor Matt Bevin on Saturday, where he called for the immediate resignation of any government employee who has settled a sexual harassment claim.
Hoover, who was not named directly by Gov. Bevin, fired back, stating he had no plans to resign.
"I am more resolved than ever to continue my work as Speaker thru the 2018 session and I will continue to speak out for all Kentuckians on issues of importance," Hoover said in his statement released to the media Saturday evening.
As first reported by Courier-Journal, Hoover and a House staffer engaged in a series of lewd text messages that led to a complaint by that staffer.
"As inappropriate as those text messages were, I want to reiterate at no time did I engage in unwelcome of unwanted conduct of any kind, and at no time were there ever any sexual relations of any kind," Hoover said on Sunday.
During Hoover's press conference, acting Speaker of the House David Osborne released a statement, formally announcing he will assume the role upon Hoover's formal resignation, but it is early to speculate on the future of the leadership races.
"As of now, I am the acting Speaker of the House, and we'll follow constitutional and legal protocols regarding House leadership in the future," Osborne said.
Osborne added that he takes his obligation as a Constitutional Officer of the Commonwealth of Kentucky seriously, assuring Members of the House and Kentucky citizens that the House will continue to function and do the people's business.
"We cannot be distracted from our work, even as an investigation into the troubling reports continues," he said. "I will continue to work closely with Governor Bevin and Senate President Stivers as we seek a solution to our pension crisis."
A joint statement was also released during Hoover's press conference from Osborne, House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell, House Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher, and House Majority Chairman David Meade.
The group thanked Hoover for his service in his role as House speaker, and for agreeing to resign amid the allegations. The statement also said the four will meet on Monday to discuss their options regarding other staff members mentioned in the reports and that the independent investigation announced Saturday will continue.
You can read the full statement below:
With each passing hour Saturday night, it became clear to us that the distraction of this matter was threatening to effectively halt the operation of the Kentucky House. The people’s business cannot be set aside because of a situation involving any individual member. Speaker Hoover made the right decision.
No one person is bigger than the institution to which we are elected, and nothing can be allowed to distract us from the tasks at hand: solving the pension crisis and writing a state budget under the most challenging circumstances anyone in Frankfort can remember.
With Jeff’s resignation, Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne assumes operational control of the Kentucky House of Representatives. We will follow constitutional and legal guidelines regarding House leadership moving forward.
The independent investigation we announced yesterday will continue. What we have seen in the press and on social media is troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. We do not condone sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior among House members and staff persons, and it is imperative we find the whole truth. We are beyond disappointed that we were kept in the dark about these troubling issues, but we are committed to separating facts from rumors and providing a full report to the public.
This leadership team is removing implicated committee chairmen from their roles, pending the outcome of the investigation. We will assess their futures when the results of the investigation are known.
We are meeting with legal counsel Monday to assess options regarding the staff members mentioned in the reports. We are committed to treating everyone fairly while respecting the need for the investigation to remain as independent as possible. We need a fully functioning staff to serve the Members of the House, especially as we work through the pension crisis. We will make additional announcements regarding staffing on Monday.
This is an unfolding situation and no one in the capitol has all the facts. We are asking any member of the House Republican caucus who is or believes they will be implicated in this matter to inform this leadership team immediately if their name has not already surfaced in the public domain. We were blindsided but remain determined to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible.
We thank Jeff Hoover for his service as Speaker and for agreeing to resign. A protracted fight among the leaders of the Republican Party, entrusted by the voters to govern this state, is not in the best interest of our Commonwealth.
To the citizens of Kentucky, we remain committed to solving the serious financial problems facing our government. You elected us to lead and find solutions; nothing will distract us from that task. We look forward to working with Governor Matt Bevin, Senate President Robert Stivers, and all members of the General Assembly to find a path to pension solvency and a viable state budget.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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