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Report: Woman said Kentucky lawmaker made unwanted advances

Posted at 4:53 PM, Jan 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-16 16:53:06-05

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The woman who accused Kentucky's former House speaker of sexual harassment said in a deposition that the lawmaker made more than 50 unwanted sexual advances while she worked for the House Republican Caucus, according to media accounts of the woman's testimony.

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Kentucky Public Radio on Wednesday published details of the woman's sealed deposition in which she described "nearly daily touching" and said she feared hurting her career if she reported state Rep. Jeff Hoover's actions.

The woman, who gave the testimony as part of whistleblower lawsuits filed by two others who worked at the Kentucky state Capitol in Frankfort, said she and Hoover never had sex but that he touched her sexually without her consent, the investigative news organization reported.

The woman, identified in the report as Jane Doe, said under oath in the deposition last October that Hoover groped her in the hallway or in the elevator and touched her between her legs under the table at gatherings, the media report said. She also testified she sent Hoover a nude photo of herself at his request — she said she felt pressured to do so because he was her boss — and that he "was grabbing at my underwear and touching between my legs" in his truck after a staff dinner.

She testified that Hoover once asked her to spread her legs so he could look up her dress, and in another instance, said he came up behind her at work and lifted her dress so he could "look at my underwear." She said she didn't consider it consensual.

The news organizations didn't say how they obtained the document.

Hoover and his attorney, Leslie Vose, did not immediately respond to phone calls Wednesday seeking comment.

Vose told the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting that "significant pieces" of the woman's testimony need closer examination and that she wants to question the woman in another deposition.

Kentucky's Democratic Party responded to the media report by calling on Hoover and another Republican lawmaker, state Rep. Michael Meredith, to resign immediately. The woman said in her testimony that Meredith made a vulgar comment to her at a legislative conference and begged her to have sex with him. Vose also represents Meredith, who also did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

"The behavior described by the woman they targeted and other witnesses is horrifying," state Democratic Party spokeswoman Marisa McNee said in a statement Wednesday. "Republican leadership has ignored this for far too long, it is time for them to take action."

The state Republican Party declined comment on whether Hoover and Meredith should resign, but a top party official said the GOP-led House is taking on the issue of sexual harassment "in a real and meaningful way."

Hoover and Meredith were among four Republican House lawmakers who signed a secret $110,000 sexual harassment settlement with the woman. Hoover, the state's first GOP House speaker in nearly a century, resigned from the top leadership post in early 2018 but kept his legislative seat. Hoover and Meredith were re-elected last year while the other two lawmakers opted not to run for re-election. There have been no criminal charges filed related to the accusations.

Hoover has denied he sexually harassed the woman but acknowledged sending her what he called inappropriate but consensual text messages.

Former House GOP Communications Director Daisy Olivo and ex-House Clerk Brad Metcalf said they reported the harassment allegations but were punished by GOP lawmakers seeking to cover it up. They both filed lawsuits in state court. The former legislative aide identified as Jane Doe gave her deposition as part of those suits. Her attorney, Gail Langendorf, declined comment Wednesday on the media report detailing the deposition.

An attorney for Hoover and Meredith wants to cross-examine the staffer in another deposition, having called it a matter of fairness.

Two judges issued conflicting orders on the request. One judge shielded the woman from the follow-up deposition, while another judge said he would allow the woman to be compelled to testify again. Langendorf said she will challenge allowing the lawmakers' attorney to depose her client, saying they had chances to litigate her claims previously but didn't do so.

"That ship has sailed, as far as we're concerned," she said in a phone interview.

Last year, the Legislative Research Commission gave Hoover a public reprimand and fined him $1,000. The commission dismissed ethics complaints against the other three lawmakers.