FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - UPDATE:
Temporary House Speaker David Osborne says steps have been taken to ensure the allegations Jeff Hoover face does not happen again.
In a statement, Osborne says leadership in the house is focusing on how to handle sexual assault alloigations in the future.
"We have retained a law firm to advise us on the unfolding personnel matters," says Osborne. "We are taking advice from legal counsel to ensure all laws surrounding a workplace situation like this are followed to the letter."
Osborne's temporarily position goes into affect immediately.
Rep. Jeff Hoover announced Sunday he is resigning from his post as Kentucky House speaker, effective immediately.
Speaking at a news conference Sunday afternoon at the Capitol building in Frankfort, Hoover, a Republican from Jamestown, said the decision is in the best interest of his family and the people of Kentucky.
Hoover will continue to serve as the representative of the 83rd House district, he said.
This comes a day after Governor Matt Bevin called for the immediate resignation of lawmakers or state employees who have settled sexual harassment claims.
The Courier-Journal recently reported Hoover settled a sexual harassment claim by a member of his staff outside of court. The paper reported those allegations publicly Thursday evening based on anonymous sources.
On Sunday, Hoover admitted he sent inappropriate text messages, but said everything was consensual and he did not commit harassment.
Hoover apologized to the people of Kentucky and asked for forgiveness from them and his family.
"To say that the past few weeks, and especially the past four days, have been trying and difficult for me and my family would be an understatement," Hoover said.
"For 21 years the folks in Russell, Clinton, Cumberland and Pulaski counties have given me the highest honor and privilege to serve them and to represent them here in Frankfort," he said. "I will continue to work hard every day to solve problems that are facing this state and I will speak out when necessary."
An emotional Hoover did not take questions from reporters Sunday.
Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne assumes operational control of the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Here is a statement from Osborne, House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell, Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher and Majority Caucus Chairman David Meade:
"With each passing hour Saturday night, it became clear to us that the distraction of this matter was threatening to effectively halt the operation of the Kentucky House. The people’s business cannot be set aside because of a situation involving any individual member. Speaker Hoover made the right decision.
No one person is bigger than the institution to which we are elected, and nothing can be allowed to distract us from the tasks at hand: solving the pension crisis and writing a state budget under the most challenging circumstances anyone in Frankfort can remember.
With Jeff’s resignation, Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne assumes operational control of the Kentucky House of Representatives. We will follow constitutional and legal guidelines regarding House leadership moving forward.
The independent investigation we announced yesterday will continue. What we have seen in the press and on social media is troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. We do not condone sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior among House members and staff persons, and it is imperative we find the whole truth. We are beyond disappointed that we were kept in the dark about these troubling issues, but we are committed to separating facts from rumors and providing a full report to the public.
This leadership team is removing implicated committee chairmen from their roles, pending the outcome of the investigation. We will assess their futures when the results of the investigation are known.
We are meeting with legal counsel Monday to assess options regarding the staff members mentioned in the reports. We are committed to treating everyone fairly while respecting the need for the investigation to remain as independent as possible. We need a fully functioning staff to serve the Members of the House, especially as we work through the pension crisis. We will make additional announcements regarding staffing on Monday.
This is an unfolding situation and no one in the capitol has all the facts. We are asking any member of the House Republican caucus who is or believes they will be implicated in this matter to inform this leadership team immediately if their name has not already surfaced in the public domain. We were blindsided but remain determined to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible.
We thank Jeff Hoover for his service as Speaker and for agreeing to resign. A protracted fight among the leaders of the Republican Party, entrusted by the voters to govern this state, is not in the best interest of our Commonwealth.
To the citizens of Kentucky, we remain committed to solving the serious financial problems facing our government. You elected us to lead and find solutions; nothing will distract us from that task. We look forward to working with Governor Matt Bevin, Senate President Robert Stivers, and all members of the General Assembly to find a path to pension solvency and a viable state budget."
Mac Brown, chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky, released this statement:
“There is no place for sexual harassment in any workplace, much less in our State Capitol. Today’s decision by Speaker Hoover to step down was appropriate. While it was personally difficult for him, stepping down allows the rest of the House Republican Leadership to move forward with the business of the Commonwealth.
Our remaining House leadership recognizes the importance of holding themselves to a higher standard. I want to applaud the work done by House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher and Majority Caucus Chair David Meade during this difficult time. They have the full faith of the Republican Party of Kentucky as they move the caucus forward from this difficult situation.
We also fully support the independent investigation announced by House Republican Leadership to determine the extent of the harassment. We hope that this investigation will reassure the public that House Leadership is dedicated to changing the culture in Frankfort.”
Executive Director Mary Nishimuta, of the Kentucky Democratic Party, released this statement:
"Hoover and Bevin attempted to wield their power and maneuver for their own political agendas during this sexual harassment case, while at least two female victims, and possibly more, are disregarded in their wake," Nishimuta said. "While Rep. Hoover’s career as House speaker ends today, Kentuckians should consider it both vulgar and obscene that Gov. Bevin would speak out against sexual harassment when it's politically convenient for him, but yet refused to hold the president of the United States to the same standard.This isn't leadership, this is an abuse of power. Shame on them and the House GOP members who didn't have the courage to publicly stand up against these transgressions until they found it suitable for their own ambitions."