Kentucky official says he was fired for reporting harassment
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A former state official in Kentucky says he was fired for reporting “ethical and mismanagement” issues with the handling of sexual harassment complaints against multiple lawmakers.
Brad Metcalf filed a lawsuit Thursday in Franklin County Circuit Court against the Legislative Research Commission seeking to recover lost wages and benefits, plus an undisclosed amount in damages.
A spokesman for the commission declined to comment.
Metcalf was the House clerk in 2017 when four Republican lawmakers signed a secret sexual harassment settlement with a female employee. The settlement included GOP Reps. Jim DeCesare, Michael Meredith, Brian Linder and House Speaker Jeff Hoover. The settlement was revealed by the Courier Journal, which led to Hoover stepping down as House speaker in January.
Hoover has denied sexual harassment, but said he did sent inappropriate but consensual text messages. A state ethics commission plans to hold a hearing about the settlement next month.
According to the lawsuit, Metcalf first learned of the allegations in 2016 when he was the chief of staff for the House Republican Caucus. Metcalf says the woman told him about receiving inappropriate messages from DeCesare. Metcalf says he reported the behavior to Hoover, who told him it would be taken care of.
But Metcalf said nothing was done. An attorney for Hoover did not return a phone message Thursday seeking comment.
Metcalf said the process Hoover used with the complaint against DeCesare was different from a process he used with a previous complaint filed against another Republican lawmaker. Contacted Thursday, that lawmaker said no such complaint was ever filed against him.
The Associated Press is not identifying that lawmaker because no other evidence is available to verify the complaint exists. The Associated Press filed an open records request with the Legislative Research Commission on Thursday seeking any records related to the complaint. By law, the commission has three days to respond.
Shane Sidebottom, Metcalf’s attorney, said the lawsuit makes no comment concerning whether the allegation against the other lawmaker is true, but that case is used as an example to show Republican leaders have not dealt with complaints consistently.
“The point was multiple complaints were being made against legislators that were being handled differently, it seems, based on who the legislator was and who was involved,” Sidebottom said.
The lawsuit was filed on the same day the Kentucky House of Representatives passed a bill to create a tip line for employees to report sexual harassment or other misconduct.
The Legislative Ethics Commission would maintain the tip line. The measure also seeks to shield tipsters from retribution from lawmakers or other legislative branch employees. And it would create an accelerated timeline to review allegations.
Republican Rep. Ken Fleming, the bill’s lead sponsor, said it would give legislative employees another outlet to report they were subjected to “an unwelcome situation.”
He said the bill would help deter misconduct by “increasing the perception of detection.”
Another co-sponsor, Republican Rep. Kim Moser, said the bill includes safeguards for accusers and the accused to ensure fair investigation. She said it would help ensure a “safe and respectful workplace for all of us.”