FBI reviewing sexual harassment claims at Kentucky Capitol
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The FBI says it is investigating sexual harassment and retaliation claims made by employees at Kentucky’s state Capitol, potentially widening a scandal that has already snared the Republican House speaker and three committee chairmen.
FBI spokesman David Habich said the agency is reviewing the information to determine if federal laws were broken.
GOP House Speaker Jeff Hoover resigned his leadership position on Sunday after acknowledging he settled a sexual harassment claim outside of court with a member of his staff. Hoover denied engaging in harassing behavior, but said he did send text messages that were consensual but inappropriate. Hoover said he will remain in the legislature.
House GOP leaders said they were not contacted by any outside law enforcement agencies on Monday. But they have promised to hire an outside law firm to conduct their own investigation. A joint statement from House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne and other GOP leaders said they would have an announcement about that Tuesday.
The leaders did say they hired a law firm to advise them on “unfolding personnel matters.” They would not name that law firm or say how much they are being paid. A statement said more information would be released this week.
“We did receive the resignation of one staff member this morning. We did not ask for it,” the statement said. “The resignation was effective immediately, and we transmitted the letter to the Legislative Research Commission and their human resources staff.”
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that the staff member who accused Hoover and others of sexual harassment planned to resign. But Garry Adams, an attorney who represents the victim, declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.
The settlement also involves three other Republican lawmakers, all chairmen of legislative committees. Multiple media outlets have identified them as three Republican committee chairmen: Brian Linder, Michael Meredith and Jim DeCesare. Ginger Wills, Hoover’s chief of staff, was also named.
A legislative official who has seen a copy of the letter confirmed the names. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because they were not authorized to talk about the letter.
Republican House leaders said those lawmakers have been removed from their leadership positions pending the outcome of an independent investigation. But it appears Wills is still on the job, according to an email she sent to legislative staff members shortly after Hoover announced his resignation.
“At this point, Speaker Pro-Tem Osborne assumes control of the House of Representatives, as well as myself and our majority leadership staff,” Wills wrote.
Asked about Wills’ status, House Republican Caucus spokesman Tommy Druen said GOP leaders are not commenting on “existing personnel matters.”