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Bevin Calls for Resignation of House Speaker, Others in Sexual Harassment Scandal

Governor Matt Bevin did not mince words in a hastily called news conference Saturday afternoon in the Capitol rotunda - taking on members of his own party, without naming any names. 

Bevin called for the resignation of any elected official or government worker who settled any sexual harassment cases or "who is party to try to hide the type of behavior", the governor said.

Though Bevin never named him directly, the remarks come after a story reported by the Courier-Journal that House Speaker Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown) settled a sexual harassment:

Hoover, the leader of the powerful Republican majority in the House of Representatives, reached the agreement last week after receiving a demand letter from the woman’s lawyer over allegations that date to 2016, the sources said, speaking under the condition they remain unnamed because they fear reprisal if identified.

The woman reportedly worked on Hoover's legislative staff. 

Hoover has not publicly addressed the story.

Republicans in Frankfort have scrambled to figure out what to do. Hoover cannot be removed as Speaker by the GOP caucus alone. It would require an impeachment proceeding involving the entire legislature. One Republican lawmaker took to Twitter over the past two days to call for Hoover's resignation. Rep. Wes Morgan (R-Richmond) suggested that the scandal is deeper that Hoover's reported settlement:

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Bevin's press conference and Morgan's words go against the official Republican line after a long meeting Friday night in Frankfort in which the GOP leadership expressed its support for Speaker Hoover:
 

House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell, a Lancaster Republican, announced the news to a crowd of reporters after a three-hour GOP House caucus meeting Friday originally scheduled to discuss a bill to overhaul Kentucky's public pension system.

"Jeff Hoover is the speaker of the House, and he has the full support of this caucus," Shell said.

On Saturday, Republican leaders announced that they would investigate the claims:

“Because of the allegations and rumors swirling in the media and in the capitol, the majority leadership team of the Kentucky House of Representatives is taking steps to launch an independent investigation so that Members of the House and the general public may know the facts,” House leaders said in a statement. “Because the rumors involve the Speaker of the House, other State Representatives, and members of the House staff, the leadership team concluded that we must find the truth immediately to assure the public that the new Republican majority takes this matter seriously. We are not going to operate on rumor and innuendo; we are going to make decisions based on facts.”

Republicans in Frankfort have been pushing for reform in the state's troubled pension systems and Bevin had been considering a special session of the General Assembly to tackle it before the end of the year. 
 
Bevin did not take questions from reporters after his short statement. "These allegations are serious. These allegations are specific," Bevin said, noting that some of the allegations have been corroborated by other media outlets and individuals. "These allegations have not been denied by anyone. These allegations are increasingly becoming corroborated by additional voices, additional sources."
 
He said that the allegations are "indefensible, unacceptable, period."
 
"I am calling for the immediate resignation of every individual who has settled a sexual harassment case or who is party to try to hide this type of behavior," Bevin said. "This involved both elected (officials) and it involves some who are not elected who are in government employ. They should not be in government employ. They should not be representing the people of Kentucky. They know who they are. Some have been named."
 
Bevin went on to call on elected officials from both parties and at all levels of state government to publicly denounce the alleged behavior.
 
"You either publicly condemn or you publicly condone this type of behavior, period."
 
"I join Governor Bevin in condemning the inexcusable actions that have come to light regarding members of the Republican House majority, including leadership," sai dSecretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat. "As Secretary of State, I have a zero-tolerance policy regarding harassment and hostile work environments with respect to the Secretary of State and State Board of Elections offices. 
 
"It is the obligation of state employees — including elected officials — to maintain workplaces where every colleague and constituent is respected. Those who do not meet that standard should resign or be terminated and held accountable."
 

Watch Gov. Bevin's press conference:


Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo by Brandon Wheeler for RCN