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Hoover’s lawyer seeks to question accuser in deposition

December 18, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — An attorney for Kentucky’s former House speaker — who lost his leadership role amid sexual harassment allegations — wants to question the lawmaker’s accuser in separate whistleblower cases stemming from the scandal, calling it a matter of fairness.

Attorneys for two former legislative workers involved in the whistleblower cases objected Tuesday, saying it would weaken a state law meant to protect people who expose wrongdoing.

Franklin County Circuit Judges Phillip Shepherd and Thomas Wingate heard the arguments during a joint hearing Tuesday. After a nearly hourlong hearing, they told attorneys not to proceed with additional depositions until they issue a written ruling.

The issue arose as part of lawsuits filed by ex-House Clerk Brad Metcalf and former House Republican Caucus Communications Director Daisy Olivo. They allege GOP lawmakers punished them for reporting sexual harassment. Shepherd is hearing one case and Wingate the other.

It all stems from sexual harassment allegations that surfaced last year. The Courier Journal reported four Republican lawmakers had signed a secret sexual harassment settlement with a woman who once worked for the GOP caucus. The settlement included Hoover, the House speaker at the time. Hoover denied sexual harassment, but said he did send the woman inappropriate but consensual text messages.

Hoover later resigned as speaker but kept his seat in the legislature. He was eventually fined $1,000 by the Legislative Ethics Commission and issued a public apology. He was re-elected to his House seat earlier this month without opposition.

The woman who made the allegations recently gave a deposition in one of the lawsuits. Olivo’s attorney, Shane Sidebottom, has said the testimony described “disturbing facts regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

An attorney for Hoover and two of the other lawmakers who signed the settlement are seeking the right to ask the woman questions before the testimony is made public. Those other two lawmakers are Michael Meredith and Jim DeCesare.

In asking that they be allowed to intervene in the whistleblower cases, the lawmakers’ attorney, Leslie Vose, said Tuesday that her clients have a “substantial interest” in the cases. As a result, she said they should be able to have the woman questioned in another deposition.

“Fundamental fairness would indicate that it’s reasonable for a vigorous cross-examination,” she told reporters after the hearing.

Attorneys for Metcalf and Olivo said that would undermine the state’s whistleblower law.

“If they are permitted to intervene in this case and attack her, what’s the next person going to do that’s a victim?” said attorney Hans Poppe. “I believe this will absolutely be a chilling effect.”

Poppe also said it was an attempt to punish the accuser for “testifying about what happened with her and Speaker Hoover and the other legislators.”

Gail Langendorf, an attorney representing the woman who made the allegations, also objected to having her client sit for another deposition.

“All my client wants is to move on with her life,” she told reporters afterward.

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