Politics

Former House Speaker Jeff Hoover and two other Republican state lawmakers are trying to prevent the public release of parts of a deposition taken from a former staffer who accused them of sexually harassing her. The deposition is part of a whistleblower lawsuit filed by another staffer who says she was retaliated against for reporting harassment.

The three men — as well as one other representative who has not asked to intervene in the case — admitted to paying Jane Doe $110,000 last year in an out-of-court settlement.

Kentucky Public Radio does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault or harassment. Jane Doe’s initial accusations have still not been made public because of a non-disclosure agreement.

Court records show that Jane Doe, who used to work in the communications department of the House Republican Caucus, was subpoenaed to testify in a whistleblower lawsuit filed by her supervisor Daisy Olivo and former House Clerk Brad Metcalf. Olivo and Metcalf allege they were retaliated against for raising questions about sexual harassment in the House Republican Caucus.

Their lawyer, Shane Sidebottom, said that Jane Doe’s deposition includes allegations of sexual assault.

“She gave a deposition and she reported a lot of stuff. Some of it is very bad and graphic,” Sidebottom said.

“My clients, as employees of the government and one being a supervisor felt they had a duty and obligation under the law to report this internally for investigation, which they did. They were punished for it.”

Olivo’s lawyers filed a motion on Wednesday to formally file the deposition once the woman’s name and identifying information is redacted.

But on Thursday morning, lawyers for Hoover, Bowling Green Rep. Jim DeCesare and Oakland Rep. Michael Meredith filed a motion to intervene in the case asking that publication of the deposition be delayed while they try to have portions of it sealed.

Leslie Vose, the attorney representing the lawmakers, did not return a request for comment Thursday. Lawyers for the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawmakers argue that the deposition includes information that compromises a contractual agreement they have with the former staffer “in which all parties agreed to keep certain information confidential.”

“…it appears that the contractual agreement between nonparties to the current litigation may have been breached,” the motion states.

Dry Ridge Rep. Brian Linder, who was also accused of harassment, did not join in the motion to intervene.

Gail Langendorf, an attorney representing Jane Doe, said that in the deposition her client “testified truthfully and accurately as to sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct while she was a public employee at the LRC.”

The secret agreement was first reported by Courier Journal last year and quickly exploded into a scandal that eventually led to Hoover’s resignation as speaker and deep divisions among the House Republican caucus.

Louisville Democratic Rep. Jim Wayne filed a complaint with the Legislative Ethics Commission alleging that Hoover and the other lawmakers had broken ethics rules by allegedly harassing the staffer and secretly settling the case.

The commission voted to dismiss the complaint against DeCesare, Meredith and Linder but fined Hoover $1,000 after he admitted to exchanging inappropriate text messages with the woman.

According to defense attorneys during that hearing, Meredith was accused of saying something “vulgar” to the staffer, while DeCesare and Linder allegedly exchanged inappropriate texts with her.

DeCesare and Linder did not file for re-election this year, but Hoover and Meredith did.

Hoover is running unopposed for his seat representing House District 83 in the southern part of the state. Meredith will face off against Democrat Bill Fishback in the 19th District race.

The motion to publish the deposition will be heard in Franklin Circuit Court on October 31. The representatives who are trying to intervene have asked that the hearing take place on November 5, the day before Election Day.

This story has been updated with a response from Jane Doe’s attorney.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.