Kentucky’s Republican House speaker resigns leadership post

Published 6:10 pm Monday, January 8, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Republican speaker of Kentucky’s House of Representatives resigned from his leadership position Monday, more than two months after acknowledging he secretly settled a sexual harassment claim and paid to keep it quiet.

Moments after Jeff Hoover offered Monday to resign — but only if the House would accept — Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne ruled that his resignation had been accepted.

In a blistering speech on the House floor before stepping down, Hoover denounced his critics — including Republican Gov. Matt Bevin — for telling what he called lies from the “deepest pit of Hell.”

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But Hoover said he didn’t want to be a distraction for the House.

While he will no longer lead the House, Hoover remains one of its members. However, a special committee was appointed to look into the circumstances surrounding the legal settlement. A formal complaint filed by eight House members asks that the committee recommend Hoover’s expulsion.

Meanwhile, Osborne said the House won’t officially have a speaker for the remainder of this session, but he will continue to preside as speaker pro tem until his term in that office expires at the end of this year. The House will elect new officers in 2019, he said.

Hoover has acknowledged he signed a settlement with the woman, but said it did not admit wrongdoing. He has denied sexual harassment, but said he did send inappropriate but consensual text messages to a woman who once worked for the House Republican Caucus, which Hoover controls. Those text messages, according to the charges filed with the House clerk, include asking the woman to send him a picture of her wearing a “black lace g string.”

The settlement signed by Hoover and three other Republican lawmakers was handled outside of court and paid for with private money to avoid publicity. But the Courier Journal exposed it, creating an uproar in a state that was transitioning to Republican rule after decades of dominance by Democrats.

In November, after the settlement came to light, Hoover announced he would resign as speaker but keep his seat in the legislature. But when the Legislature convened this month, Hoover said he was only temporarily stepping aside as speaker “until further notice.”

Eight Republican lawmakers then filed formal disciplinary charges against Hoover, alleging he sexually harassed a woman in his office and then used taxpayer resources to cover it up. They asked a special committee to recommend expelling Hoover from the House.

Hoover told The Associated Press last week that he believed the complaint was motivated by politics.

The scandal upended what is normally a quiet first week of the legislative session.