Politics

This story has been updated. 

Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover has resigned his leadership position after acknowledging he recently settled sexual harassment claims from one of his staffers.

In a statement to the media on Sunday, Hoover said he had acted inappropriately, engaging in consensual “banter.”

“But as inappropriate as those text messages were, I want to reiterate that at no time, at no time, did I engage in unwelcome conduct of any kind,” he said. “And at no time were there ever any sexual relations of any kind. There has never been a culture of sexual harassment, as some opportunists would now wrongly claim for their personal political gain.”

But he said the charges would be a distraction for the commonwealth, and the upcoming legislative session.

Hoover intends to still serve as a representative. Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne of Prospect will assume speaker’s duties.

Hoover’s announcement comes one day after Governor Matt Bevin publicly called for the immediate resignation of anyone in state government who has settled a sexual harassment case, or helped to hide these cases.

“For the sake of themselves, for the sake of their families, for the sake of Kentucky they should resign,” Bevin said. “For every elected official in Kentucky, you either publicly condemn or you publicly condone this type of behavior. Period.”

Last week, the Courier-Journal reported Hoover had secretly settled a sexual harassment claim by a female staffer. Hoover and the woman allegedly exchanged suggestive text messages and photos.

As Kentucky Public Radio’s Ryland Barton reported on Saturday, Republican leaders — minus Hoover — have already planned to launch an investigation into the allegations.

“Because the rumors involve the Speaker of the House, other State Representatives, and members of the House staff, the leadership team concluded that we must find the truth immediately to assure the public that the new Republican majority takes this matter seriously,” House leaders said in a statement.

”We are not going to operate on rumor and innuendo; we are going to make decisions based on facts.”

Rep. Brian Linder, a Republican from Dry Ridge, Rep. Michael Meredith, a Republican from Oakland and Rep. Jim DeCesare, a Republican from Bowling Green, have also been accused of sexual harassment, according to a report from the Herald-Leader.

 

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Assignment Editor.