Whistleblower lawsuit filed in House GOP sexual harassment case

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - A staff member has filed a lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court against the Legislative Research Commission. The lawsuit, filed by Daisy Olivo, claims the commission violated a statute of the Kentucky Whistleblower Act. Olivo serves as the communications director for the House Republican leadership.

In the lawsuit, it states Olivo became aware of a sexual relationship between then-House Speaker Jeff Hoover and one of her employees, referred to as "Jane Doe" in the lawsuit. In February 2017, the lawsuit says Chief of Staff Ginger Wills called Olivo and another communication staffer into a private meeting and asked if Hoover and "Doe" were engaged in a sexual relationship. According to Olivo, Wills stated that the staffer would need to be relieved of her duties; Olivo says she objected to that due to the consensual nature of the relationship. The lawsuit says that Wills then told Olivo that a personnel case should be built against the staffer for her behavior in order to "create a path to terminate" the woman.

At some point, the woman involved notified Olivo that she was taking four months military leave beginning in May. Olivo claims in the lawsuit that she was ordered by Wills to "keep [Doe] happy" and that she intended to terminate her before or shortly after Doe returned from her military leave.

In September, Olivo talked with Speaker Hoover after "Doe" reached out to her saying she didn't think she could return to work due to sexual harassment she felt was created by Hoover. Days later, Olivo says she also had a meeting with Willis and Laura Hendrix about the meeting with Hoover and the hostile work environment surrounding "Jane Doe."

When "Doe" returned to work on October 16, she informed the Olivo that she made a settlement demand on Hoover and others for sexual harassment and against Wills for creating a hostile work environment. Olivo says "Doe" shared three years worth of text messages between her and Hoover that detailed sexual encounters that occurred both during and outside work hours. A short time later, "Doe" told Olivo she entered into a secret settlement and that it was paid for with private funds pooled from prominent campaign donors.

In late October, Olivo says "Doe" informed her to stop discussing the sexual harassment case. Olivo says "Doe" also told her that "Speaker Hoover and COS Wills stated that Plaintiff would lose her job." That same day, Olivo emailed the LRC’s General Counsel and the Human Resource Director her concerns about the discussion with "Doe." According to the lawsuit, the next day Wills instructed Olivo to direct all employees with harassment concerns to her attention moving forward.

In a subsequent meeting, Olivo says she met with LRC General Counsel Greg Woosley and HR Director Tim Holbrook for about three hours to discuss everything that had happened. The next day, Olivo says Wills emailed her informing her that all media inquiries for Speaker Hoover should be handed over to another employee until further notice. Olivo says that move effectively eliminated her job duties, as she was the Communications director and in charge of media relations.

The lawsuit also references a meeting on November 17 with House Budget Director Frank Willey to discuss the pending Pension legislation. Olivo claimed that Willey stated he had no information to share with her "based on her intention to 'twist facts' and 'pit
people against one another.'” The lawsuit says that Willey " alluded that this type of behavior was the cause of Rep. Hoover losing his speakership, and that he wouldn’t work with her in the future to avoid exposing himself to the same type of damage, effectively prohibiting Plaintiff from doing her job. "

On Monday afternoon, Hoover released a statement denying all of Olivo's claims. The statement read in part, "The allegations set forth in the whistleblower lawsuit filed today are absolutely not true. I have never engaged in sexual contact of any kind with any staff member during my 21 years in Frankfort. Never."

It went on to say, "I will no longer sit back and let untrue, false, defamatory statements be made against me and others, regardless of the position of the person making them."

Representative Wesley Morgan of Richmond filed a resolution to expel Hoover from the Kentucky House. The resolution says that Hoover's actions "constitute disorderly behavior punishable by expulsion under Section 39 or the Kentucky Constitution."

House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne also released the following statement: “We will not comment on pending litigation. However, I feel good about what our investigators produced Friday and am glad we made the decision to turn this matter over to the Legislative Ethics Commission. I have confirmed with our attorneys this morning that some of the information contained within the complaint was not disclosed to them during their investigation. With the Ethics Commission involved and now a lawsuit that will make even more text messages and e-mail communications discoverable, I am more confident than ever we will ultimately get the full truth about what happened.

I’m disgusted by this entire mess and want to reassure Kentucky taxpayers that we remain committed to our actual work—solving the pension crisis and preparing for our upcoming budget session of the General Assembly. We remain committed to the public finding the truth, to creating a professional and efficient work environment, and to doing the work of the people.

Under no circumstances will sexual harassment or inappropriate workplace behavior be tolerated among the House Majority Caucus or its staff, and any results of the independent bodies now reviewing the allegations will guide our actions to ensure a safe and productive work environment.”

On Monday night, the attorney for "Jane Doe" sent WKYT a statement:

"We represent the former LRC employee who made a claim against four legislators and another employee. Those claims were resolved in an expeditious and fair manner to the satisfaction of all parties.

We have reviewed the complaint filed by Daisy Olivo against the LRC. In her complaint, Ms. Olivo states that former Speaker Hoover and our client engaged in sexual relations. Our client has confirmed this is absolutely not true.

Likewise, our client was not coerced into resolving the matter. Among numerous inaccurate matters alleged by Ms. Olivo, our client did not advise her that the matter was resolved with 'private funds pooled by prominent campaign donors.'

Based upon the investigation and documents provided to the Middleton law firm, we are confident that political donor money was not used by any of those named in settlement of this claim."

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