Kentucky lawmakers attending anti-harassment training

 
 
Updated 1/3/2018 10:07 AM
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  • FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2017 file photo, Jeff Hoover looks up to the cheers from the gallery following his swearing in Frankfort, Ky. Kentucky’s House speaker, who said he would resign his leadership position after acknowledging he settled a sexual harassment claim with a female legislative staffer, now says he’s reconsidering that decision. Hoover announced his resignation in November, saying at the time that it was “effective immediately.” But his resignation is not official until he submits it to the House of Representatives. The House convened Tuesday, but Hoover did not resign.

    FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2017 file photo, Jeff Hoover looks up to the cheers from the gallery following his swearing in Frankfort, Ky. Kentucky’s House speaker, who said he would resign his leadership position after acknowledging he settled a sexual harassment claim with a female legislative staffer, now says he’s reconsidering that decision. Hoover announced his resignation in November, saying at the time that it was “effective immediately.” But his resignation is not official until he submits it to the House of Representatives. The House convened Tuesday, but Hoover did not resign. Associated Press

  • Kentucky Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, R-Prospect, center, address the media following the opening day of the Kentucky State Legislature, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, in Frankfort, Ky. Osborne is the acting Speaker of The House.

    Kentucky Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, R-Prospect, center, address the media following the opening day of the Kentucky State Legislature, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, in Frankfort, Ky. Osborne is the acting Speaker of The House. Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- One day after the Kentucky House speaker temporarily ceded power in the aftermath of a secret sexual harassment settlement, he and his colleagues are headed off to mandatory training aimed at curbing the problem.

Jeff Hoover had announced he would resign as speaker two months ago, shortly after acknowledging he secretly settled a sexual harassment claim outside of court with a woman who worked for the House Republican Caucus.

But Tuesday, when the legislature convened, Hoover did not resign. Instead, he authorized House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne to preside over the chamber "until further notice." That opens the door for Hoover to return as speaker once the Legislative Ethics Commission finishes looking into the settlement and whether Hoover and others used money from political donors and lobbyists to pay it.

Meanwhile, Hoover and others must attend mandatory anti-harassment training on Wednesday. It's part of reforms put in place several years ago after some state workers sued a former Democratic state representative for sexual harassment. Hoover declined to speak with reporters at the training, saying he will rely on a written statement he issued Tuesday.

Hoover's latest action comes after weeks of feuding with Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who has publicly urged Hoover to give up not just his position as speaker, but his seat in the legislature. Bevin told a WKYX radio on Tuesday he still expects Hoover to resign this week.

"Well he's very misinformed, but beyond that I'm not going to say anything," Hoover said.

In a news release explaining his decision, Hoover said he announced his resignation in November because the governor publicly called for him to step down. He said he wanted to "protect House members from the intervention of the Executive branch into purely legislative matters."

A spokeswoman for Bevin did not respond to an email seeking comment.

In November, Hoover appeared to be one of dozens of powerful men across the country toppled by allegations of sexual harassment or abuse. He denied sexually harassing a woman who once worked for the House Republican Caucus, although he acknowledged sending her inappropriate but consensual text messages.

At the time, Hoover said his resignation was "effective immediately" and in the best interest of the state. But his resignation does not become official unless he formally submits it to the House, and he can only do that when the House is in session.

And when the House convened, Hoover said he has heard from "both Republicans and Democrats, as well as business leaders, political leaders and others across the Commonwealth, encouraging me to reconsider my decision to resign."

"As I consider the best course forward, and in light of the two pending issues before the Legislative Ethics Commission, I have asked speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne to serve, as the Rules of the House of Representatives provides, as the presiding officer until further notice," Hoover said in a statement.

Confusion spread on the House floor, as Osborne gaveled the House in session with Hoover's name still adorning the dais overlooking the chamber. Hoover's assigned seat had been moved to the back row, and he left shortly after registering his attendance.

"Jeff Hoover is still the speaker of the House," Osborne told reporters Tuesday.

Osborne would not say whether Hoover still attends leadership meetings or gives instructions to GOP leaders. He said Hoover is still a member of two influential committees that determine which bills get debated on the House floor.

"As speaker pro tem, I am the presiding officer of the House and therefore I am controlling the operations of the House," Osborne said.

House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins said the Democratic caucus unanimously believes Hoover should resign. But Hoover's decision has divided House Republicans. GOP Rep. Richard Heath has lobbied for Hoover to return. Republican Rep. Wesley Morgan, who has filed a resolution to expel Hoover from the House, said he was "dumbfounded" by Hoover's choice not to resign.

"He's taking the House of Representatives away from the people's business," he said.

Hoover was one of four Republican lawmakers to settle the sexual harassment claim. The other three have all lost their committee chairmanships. None has resigned from the legislature.

House Republican Caucus spokeswoman Daisy Olivo has filed a lawsuit alleging that Hoover had a sexual relationship with the woman and used money from prominent political donors to pay the settlement. The woman, through her attorney, said none of that was true. The Associated Press generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual misconduct.

Hoover and the other Republican lawmakers say a confidentiality clause in the settlement prevents them from discussing it publicly. House GOP leaders have asked the Legislative Ethics Commission to use its subpoena power to determine if lawmakers used money from political donors or registered lobbyists to pay the settlement, which could violate state law.

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