Kentucky House leadership retains law firm in wake of sexual harassment scandal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The Kentucky House leadership has retained the law firm of Middleton Reutlinger in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal that prompted the resignation of the Kentucky House Speaker.

Former Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover stepped down from his speaker position on Sunday, but he has not resigned from his House seat. Hoover admitted exchanging inappropriate text messages with a female staff member, but has denied the sexual harassment allegations. The woman who made the claim has since resigned.

Republican leadership has promised a complete and thorough investigation of the sexual harassment claims.

On Tuesday, Kentucky House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne announced that the law firm of Middleton Reutlinger had been retained, and that the first phase of the investigation had begun.

“We intend to operate the Speaker’s office by the book,” Osborne said in a written statement. “Lest there be any doubt, we are not personally involved in the investigation and have hired one of the best law firms in Kentucky to conduct the initial phase of this independent inquiry.”

In a memo to staff in the Speaker’s office made public by Osborne, Osborne urged staff members to be forthcoming with any information the law firm request, pledging that there would be “no retaliation” against any staff members who provided information.

“As part of this investigation, several of you may be contacted and requested to provide any information you may have concerning the recent events and the work environment in our offices,” Osborne wrote in the memo. “We ask and encourage you to provide appropriate information to the Middleton Reutlinger lawyers. There will, of course, be no retaliation against any person for providing this information to the lawyers.”

But state Democratic lawmakers question the ability of such an investigation to remain independent. In a letter to Osborne, House Democratic leadership called on Osborne to consult the entire Legislative Research Commission to determine the best course of action for a fully independent investigation.

“House Majority Leadership’s selection of a person or entity to perform an investigation of harassment claims against its own caucus members cannot, by definition, be independent,” the letter stated. “We would caution you not to pursue this course.”

“Please reconsider your intended course and instead opt to convene a meeting of the full Commission to determine the most appropriate means of achieving the end we all know is necessary,” the letter continued. “We would urge you to act expeditiously by informing us of your decision on this request by no later than 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 8th.”

For his part, Osborne wrote that he wants to continue the business of the legislature. In his written statement, Osborne added that he has met with Senate President Robert Stivers about crafting a pension reform bill that can pass the General Assembly, even as the sexual harassment investigation is ongoing.

“We cannot allow this mess to distract us from our duty to protect the citizens of Kentucky from the financial catastrophe that awaits should the General Assembly fail to act on the pension situation,” he wrote.

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