UPDATE: Kentucky House speaker resigns post after texts with staffer

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Rep. Jeff Hoover
Rep. Jeff Hoover (Photo Courtesy: www.lrc.ky.gov)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky’s Republican House speaker has resigned his leadership position after acknowledging he settled sexual harassment claims from one of his staffers last month.

Jeff Hoover announced his decision Sunday. He denied sexually harassing the staff member, but said he sent inappropriate text messages that were consensual.

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Hoover’s wife and two of his three daughters were in the room as he spoke.

Hoover says he will remain in the legislature. House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne will become the acting speaker.

The announcement comes as Gov. Matt Bevin is trying to push through changes to the state’s troubled pension system. Hoover had said he would not vote for Bevin’s bill without changes.

Hoover has been speaker since January when Republicans took control for the first time in nearly a century.

 

Here is Hoover’s Sunday statement in its entirety:

“To say that the past few weeks, and especially the past four days, have been trying and difficult would be an understatement.  With prayer, support from my family and friends, and hundreds of people, we have endured.  I want to thank so many Kentuckians who have reached out to me and my family during this time.

The decision today is what is best for Kentucky, what is best for the House of Representatives.  For 21 years, the folks in Russell, Clinton, Cumberland, and Pulaski counties have given me the honor and privilege to serve and represent them here in Frankfort.  I have served them and the citizens of this state to the very best of my ability.  I have tried to develop and maintain a sense of fairness, honesty, and integrity in all my dealings and actions in Frankfort.  I have tried, since January, as Speaker of the House, to change the tone of how things were done in Frankfort, to show that folks from both parties, majority and minority, should be engaged in the process and could work together to solve issues and make the Kentucky we all love a better place.  I am proud of the work we have done, and the progress we have made.  Now we face a difficult time . . .

A few weeks ago, on October 17th, I received a letter from an attorney on behalf of his client making allegations, let me repeat, allegations, against me and others for sexual harassment.  The letter was not a demand letter in the sense of demanding a sum of money – it requested that we negotiate a resolution instead of litigating the allegations.  I immediately contacted and sought the advice of counsel.  After discussing the matter with counsel on October 18th, I informed the other individuals named in the allegations.  On October 20th, we met with counsel to discuss the allegations.  In the meantime, our counsel and the complainant’s attorney spoke about setting up a formal mediation with a mediator selected, and paid, by both sides in an effort to resolve the dispute and in a manner requested by the complainant’s attorney.  By mutual agreement, this meeting was held five days later, just eight days after the letter was received, and as was requested by the complainant.  At that mediation, an agreement was reached between all parties and all counsel to resolve the issue.  None of the parties against whom the allegations were made admitted any wrongdoing.  In fact, all of those individuals, including myself, absolutely and expressly denied any sexual harassment had taken place.  The parties agreed that the mediation and resolution should remain confidential, which was important to both sides in the effort to move forward in the employment relationship.  I did make mistakes in that I engaged in inappropriate text messages.  I engaged in banter that was consensual, but yet was wrong on my part, and, for that, I am truly support.  I have asked for and received forgiveness from God, my wife, Karyn, and my family has forgiven me and I have their unwavering support.  Today, I ask the people of this Commonwealth to forgive me for my actions.  I am truly sorry and ask for your forgiveness.  But, as inappropriate as those text messages were, I want to reiterate at no time did I engage in unwelcome or unwanted conduct of any kind, and at no time were there ever any sexual relations of any kind.  There has never been a culture of sexual harassment, as some opportunists would wrongly claim for their personal political gain.

I can move forward in my life thanks to friends and family who, I hope, know the real Jeff Hoover, and know this was a mistake.  I have fallen short.  I am a sinner.  My Twitter bio says “sinner saved by God’s grace.”  That is me, even though some media reports have made light of my faith and this statement in their reporting.  However, we are at a point that this is more than being about Jeff Hoover.

We have many issues facing this state, not the least of which is the pension crisis.  During the past few weeks, I have spoken out when I disagreed with the rhetoric and condescending attitude coming from some.  I spoke out in support of my wife and teachers across this state when they were unfairly accused of “hoarding sick days.  I spoke out and said those comments were disappointing.  For that, I was chastised and told that was never said, although I had the audio and had listened to it and gotten the full story to confirm what was said before I made any public comment.  I spoke out a few weeks ago when comments were made to a Louisville radio station about the pension discussion, comments which breached confidential discussions.  When I objected, I was told I was “disrespectful and my objections were insulting.”  There are other examples, but it is fair to say I am not the favorite legislator of some in this Capitol, nor have I ever been, quite honestly.

The decision I have to make is what is best for the state at this time; what is best for this House of Representatives; what is best for my caucus members who stood strong with me and gave me their overwhelming support on Friday.  It is no longer about Jeff Hoover.  Today, it is more important than Jeff Hoover.

In light of what has been said and transpired in the past day or so, there is no question that moving forward in the 2018 session will be difficult.  I have been convicted of sexual harassment by some without knowing all the facts, without an opportunity to even defend against “allegations,” and convicted by some without any grasp or understanding or appreciation for the law.

As we move toward the 2018 session, I do not want the story to always be about me versus someone else.  I am not afraid of that battle, but it is how it will be portrayed.  That is not fair to the people of this state, nor is it fair to my caucus members.  It is not fair to the process that I have worked so hard to improve.  And that is not conducive to getting problems solved and addressing issues facing us.

Therefore, I am announcing my resignation as Speaker of the House, effective immediately.  I will continue to serve as State Representative for the people of the 83rd District and represent them to the very best of my ability.  I will continue to work hard to solve problems facing this state, and speak out when necessary.

I leave the position of Speaker with no animosity toward anyone, not even those who have been working and conspiring for months for this result, nor those who have used this as an opportunity for political gain.  My action today is because I love the Commonwealth of Kentucky and its people.  I appreciate all those who have offered support and prayers.  I am blessed.

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.