Investigations Politics

A lawyer for state Rep. Jeff Hoover has filed notice that she intends to question a former staffer under oath next week about her allegations Hoover sexually assaulted her.

But a lawyer representing the accuser says she will appeal to a higher court to stop the deposition from taking place.

The development comes after the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Kentucky Public Radio published details from a sealed copy of the former staffer’s sworn testimony, which alleged that Hoover sexually assaulted her more than 50 times during her employment between 2015 and 2017.

KyCIR doesn’t identify alleged victims of sexual harassment or assault without their consent, and the staffer is identified in some court records as Jane Doe.

Hoover hasn’t publicly responded to the woman’s testimony. He has previously claimed that he only exchanged sexually charged text messages with her. But under oath in a whistleblower lawsuit brought by two former supervisors, the woman testified on October 2 that Hoover repeatedly touched her breasts, buttocks and vagina without her consent.

Gail Langendorf, Doe’s attorney, said Friday that she will fight the deposition because her client shouldn’t have to answer questions from people who aren’t part of the lawsuit.

“She was a witness in this whistleblower action. She shouldn’t now be deposed by people who aren’t parties to the whistleblower action regarding allegations that she’s made,” Langendorf said.

Leslie Vose, an attorney representing Hoover and two other men accused of sexual harassment while serving in the legislature, said earlier this week that she wants to question the former staffer’s testimony because “significant pieces of her testimony” need to be examined.

“That’s the reason that we have sought to take her deposition, and thus far we’ve not been able to achieve that,” Vose said on Tuesday.

News of Hoover’s inappropriate behavior first surfaced in 2017, after he and three other Republican lawmakers signed a secret out-of-court settlement with Doe.

Hoover stayed in the legislature but resigned as speaker of the House in January 2018. He won reelection in November.

Hoover and two of the lawmakers who signed the secret settlement with Doe have intervened in the whistleblower lawsuit to try and have portions of Doe’s testimony redacted. Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled last month that the legislators’ attorneys could cross-examine Doe under oath.

Vose is also seeking to remove Doe’s demand letter, currently under seal, from the court record in the whistleblower case. Doe’s attorney submitted the letter to the court last month.

On Friday, Vose said in a court filing that the letter is “not relevant nor material to this litigation.”

“Although the witness’s attorney purported to voluntarily tender the document under seal, recent events… suggest that the Court’s Orders regarding the confidentiality of sealed [documents] have been and are being disregarded,” Vose wrote in the motion.

Ethics Commission Questioned About What They Knew

On Thursday, in response to KyCIR’s investigation, Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne said he has asked the Legislative Ethics Commission if it was aware of the details of the sexual assault and harassment allegations when it looked last year into the former staffer’s claims.

The inquiry followed a complaint from then-Rep. Jim Wayne about the secret $110,000 settlement signed by Hoover, Rep. Michael Meredith and former Republican representatives Jim DeCesare and Brian Linder.

The lawmakers’ settlement with Doe was in regard to unspecified allegations of “harassment, assault/battery” and “retaliation,” according to the settlement agreement.

A representative of the ethics commission said the agency responded to Osborne’s request, but referred questions about its response to House leadership. Osborne’s office didn’t respond to a request for the commission’s response.

After the inquiry, Hoover was fined $1,000 and publicly reprimanded. The commission voted to dismiss the complaint against the three other lawmakers. The commission reviewed the settlement document as part of its inquiry.

Langendorf, Doe’s attorney, said on Friday that her client was subpoenaed by the ethics commission and communicated the allegations to their investigators at the time.

“She never actually testified, but she spoke with investigators and told them exactly what the allegations were, and then whatever they did from there is what they did from there,” Langendorf said.

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