Investigations Politics

A former state legislator told the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting on Monday that she never witnessed inappropriate behavior by Rep. Jeff Hoover, as his accuser has claimed.

In a demand letter, and later during a sworn deposition, a former House staffer said then-Rep. Jill York of Grayson witnessed Hoover and the woman interact during the 2016 legislative session and complained about it to House Republican Communications Director Daisy Olivo.

That wasn’t true, according to York, who called Monday after KyCIR published a story detailing the allegations raised by the former staffer, called Jane Doe in some court records. York didn’t respond to a request for comment before the story published.

According to the demand letter the woman sent in October 2017 stating her legal claim, York approached Doe’s supervisor, Daisy Olivo, “saying the behavior was completely inappropriate and he (Hoover) needed to stop it right away.”

York said Monday that the incident described by Doe didn’t happen, and that she was “completely shocked” by Doe’s account.

York said she did recall having a conversation with Olivo, but that it was to express concern about what she considered to be Doe’s inappropriate behavior, not Hoover’s.

“I got tired of witnessing what I thought was unprofessional and just overly collegial behavior on the part of Ms. Doe on the House floor,” York said. “I did not see it in relationship to the speaker at all.”

York said she was concerned about Doe “inserting (herself) into little huddles of people, cracking jokes, acting disinterested, eye-rolling, inattentive.”

York, who lost her reelection bid last November by five votes, said she also ”scolded” Doe herself as well as reporting her concerns about Doe to Olivo.

Doe declined to comment Monday. Olivo could not be reached for comment.

Doe said in the demand letter that she was living in fear due to alleged harassment by Hoover and three other legislators. She and her attorney offered to negotiate, confidentially. The following week, Hoover, the other lawmakers and a Republican staffer secretly settled with Doe for $110,000.

Hoover’s attorneys have fought to keep the demand letter out of the public record, and it has never been released. But the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Kentucky Public Radio obtained a copy of the five-page document.

Also on Monday, the Kentucky Democratic Party called for the resignation of anyone in GOP leadership who was aware of what they called the “cover-up.”

House Speaker David Osborne, a Republican from Prospect, said on Monday evening that he was satisfied with the commission’s handling of the case.

Osborne asked the ethics commission last month if they had all the information that they felt as if they needed when they rendered the decision.

“They said that they did, and I assume that they considered all those things when rendering their decision and making their final judgment,” Osborne said.

Osborne made the request after a KyCIR story published last month revealed that Doe accused Hoover of behavior she considered sexual assault during sworn testimony in a civil lawsuit.

And a KyCIR story published Monday found that the ethics commission knew Doe accused Hoover of groping and coercion before it investigated and settled a case with Hoover.

R.G. Dunlop is an investigative reporter whose work has exposed government corruption and resulted in numerous reforms.
Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.