NewsGovernmentState GovernmentKentucky State Government News


Former Kentucky House speaker fined for 'inappropriate text messages'

Former Kentucky House speaker fined for 'inappropriate text messages'
Posted at 2:13 PM, Apr 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-10 14:20:56-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The former speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives has agreed to a $1,000 fine and a public reprimand for engaging in "inappropriate text messages" with a female staffer.

The fine and the reprimand are part of a settlement between Jeff Hoover and the Legislative Ethics Commission. The commission approved the settlement on Tuesday and closed the case.

Hoover spoke briefly to the commission, telling them he has "from Day One" acknowledged that the "text message bantering" he engaged in was inappropriate.

"I acknowledge that again here today. I acknowledge that ethically that would violate the ethics statute," Hoover said. "I made a mistake."

Hoover was one of four Republican lawmakers who signed the sexual-harassment settlement last year at the height of the #metoo movement that saw the downfall of powerful men in politics, entertainment and media for inappropriate conduct toward women. Nationally, two state lawmakers have been removed from office after facing sexual-harassment allegations: Democrat Steve Lebsock in Colorado and Republican Don Shooter in Arizona.

In Kentucky, Hoover resigned as speaker and the other three lawmakers lost their committee chairmanships. But all four remain in the legislature. Eight Republican lawmakers filed formal charges against Hoover earlier this year seeking to expel him from the legislature. But the House voted to dismiss those charges and let the ethics commission handle the investigation. The settlement approved Tuesday did not recommend Hoover be expelled from the legislature.

Together, Hoover and the other three lawmakers paid the woman $66,000 and her attorneys $44,000 to settle the allegations, according to a copy of the settlement that was released Tuesday.

After the settlement was revealed by the Courier Journal in November, a Democratic lawmaker filed a complaint with the Legislative Ethics Commission asking for an investigation to determine if any ethics laws were broken. Last week, the commission dismissed the complaint against the other three lawmakers. But they allowed the complaint against Hoover to continue.

Tuesday, the commission was prepared to hear evidence in the case, including potential testimony from Hoover and the woman who made the initial allegations. But that hearing was canceled after both parties agreed to a settlement and the commission approved it.

"It was the best for me, I think it was the best for the former staffer, I think it is best for our families and I think it is best for the process," Hoover told reporters after the hearing. "This is a resolution that puts it all behind us and we all can move forward now."

The woman declined to comment after the hearing. The Associated Press is not naming her at her request.

The commission reviewed pages of text messages between Hoover and the woman before agreeing to accept the settlement. The commission released those messages after the hearing. The messages show Hoover discussing getting a massage with the woman and commenting on the number of buttons on the side of her dress.

In one exchange, the woman asks Hoover to "come over" so "we can do whatever you want."

"Don't worry about being my boss," the woman said.

"I'm sorry. But I have to worry about that and that just prohibits it. Just too risky," Hoover replied. "If you decide to send a photo of the black lace g string, I won't share. For my eyes only."

The photo was not included in the pages of text messages released publicly, but it appears the woman sent the photo because Hoover complimented her.

Hoover asked her in a text to delete it "before somebody sees it."