Jeff Hoover's tenure as Kentucky's first Republican House speaker in nearly 100 years ended abruptly last month when he acknowledged he paid to settle a sexual harassment claim from a woman in his office outside of court. Hoover denied harassment, but said he sent the woman inappropriate but consensual text messages. He said the two of them never had sex.
But Monday, the spokeswoman for the House Republican Caucus filed a lawsuit saying Hoover had "physical, sexual encounters" with the woman "both during work hours, and outside of work hours." She said Hoover and three other Republican lawmakers paid the woman a settlement "with private funds pooled from prominent campaign donors" in an attempt to keep it private.
The allegations in Daisy Olivo's lawsuit are based on conversations she said she had with the woman, identified as "Jane Doe," which she said included detailed timelines of their sexual encounters plus three years' worth of text messages. But Monday night, the woman said through her attorney that Olivo's allegations are false.
"In her complaint, Ms. Olivo states that former Speaker Hoover and our client engaged in sexual relations. Our client has confirmed this is absolutely not true," said Garry Adams, an attorney who represents the woman who received the sexual harassment settlement. "Among numerous inaccurate matters alleged by Ms. Olivo, our client did not advise her that the matter was resolved with 'private funds pooled by prominent campaign donors.'"
Hoover also forcefully denied the allegations, saying he has "never engaged in sexual contact of any kind with any staff member during my 21 years in Frankfort." "I will no longer sit back and let untrue, false, defamatory statements be made against me and others," he said.
State officials have confirmed taxpayers did not pay the settlement. House Republican leaders hired a law firm to find out who did. Their investigation, released last week, was inconclusive. State officials have confirmed taxpayers did not pay the settlement. House Republican leaders hired a law firm to find out who did. Their investigation , released last week, was inconclusive. Hoover and others provided documents showing they took out loans from banks and family members to pay the settlement, but the amounts were redacted. They also refused to disclose a copy of the settlement, so investigators could not confirm if the documents matched the settlement agreement.
Acting House Speaker David Osborne has asked the Legislative Ethics Commission to use its subpoena power to obtain a copy of the settlement and determine if any part of it was paid for by political donors or lobbyists, which could be a violation of state ethics law.
"I'm disgusted by this entire mess and want to reassure Kentucky taxpayers that we remain committed to our actual work," Osborne said. The scandal comes at a time when the country is grappling with multiple instances of sexual misconduct in the workplace, including high-profile cases that have toppled powerful men in politics, entertainment and media. And it also has caused a rift among Kentucky Republicans, who are in their first year of full control of state government after decades of dominance by Democrats.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin asked the state Republican Party on Saturday to call for the resignation of Hoover and the other three lawmakers who paid to settle the sexual harassment claim, but party leaders refused . Bevin called it "not a proud day for the Republican Party." On Monday, Republican Rep. Wesley Morgan filed a resolution to expel Hoover from the legislature. The resolution would need at least 60 out of 100 votes to pass. Republicans have a 64-36 majority.