Update: Governor Matt Bevin said in a release Saturday that allegations that haven't been denied are "unacceptable." He called on elected officials and state employees who have settled sexual harassment claims to "resign immediately."
Here is the full statement:
"These alleged actions, which haven’t been denied, are reprehensible, indefensible and unacceptable. Any elected official or state employee who has settled a sexual harassment claim should resign immediately," said Gov. Bevin. "The people of Kentucky deserve better. We appropriately demand a high level of integrity from our leaders, and will tolerate nothing less in our state."
A Republican state representative is calling for House Speaker Jeff Hoover to resign or be impeached, saying Hoover and leaders of the state legislature tried to cover up sexual harassment allegations made by a female staffer.
Rep. Wesley Morgan of Richmond said three other Republican lawmakers have also been accused of sexual harassment, though he wouldn’t identify them, saying only that they are chairmen of committees in the state House of Representatives.
“They have all conspired to cover it up and keep it secret. And it is just not the way we conduct business in Kentucky,” Morgan said in an interview on Saturday.
Hoover has not responded to an article published by the Louisville Courier-Journal that said he secretly settled a sexual harassment suit with a female subordinate, only saying that he won’t resign from his position.
The report stems from events that took place in 2016 when Hoover was still the minority leader in the House.
Citing anonymous sources, the article said Hoover exchanged sexually suggestive text messages with the female staffer and requested pictures. The woman’s lawyer delivered a demand letter to Hoover and the case was recently settled out of court, according to the Courier-Journal report.
Morgan claims an employee in Hoover’s office has been threatened with retaliation after raising concerns about the allegations.
He said the employee has “been treated with so much animosity and disrespect and basically just told to sit down and shut up and keep everything quiet.” Morgan added he believes the threat amounts to a violation of the Hobbs Act — a federal law that deals with extortion. He said he’s notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the alleged threats.
Requests for more information from the speaker’s office have not been returned.
House Republicans discussed Hoover’s status at a caucus meeting on Friday. Afterwards, House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell announced to reporters that Hoover had the “full support” of Republicans in the chamber.
Contradicting Shell’s statement, on Saturday Morgan said many lawmakers were upset by the allegations and opposed Hoover’s leadership.
“We were immediately notified that Speaker Hoover was not going to resign and was not going to step down,” Morgan said.
Hoover is from Jamestown in Russell County and has been a member of the House since 1996. He became speaker after last year’s elections in which Republicans secured a majority in the chamber for the first time since 1921.
Morgan said he doesn’t want to hurt the Republican Party, but that he can’t “look the other way.”
“It’s very emotional, you deal with a person, you get to like that person, you really don’t want to hurt that person,” Morgan said.
“But at the same time you cannot condone this stuff.”