FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The woman who accused Kentucky’s former House speaker and three other Republican lawmakers of sexual harassment has given a deposition that an attorney says contains “disturbing facts regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault.”
But an attorney for three of the lawmakers has asked a judge not to release the transcript of the woman’s testimony until the lawyer can review it and determine if any portion of it should be sealed.
The request comes less than two weeks before the midterm elections, when two of the lawmakers will be on the ballot. It also comes amid a flurry of other court cases regarding sexual harassment in Kentucky’s state government.
Former GOP House Speaker Jeff Hoover and Republican Reps. Jim DeCesare, Michael Meredith and Brian Linder all signed a secret $110,000 sexual harassment settlement last year with a woman who once worked for the House Republican caucus. Two other state employees, House GOP Communications Director Daisy Olivo and former House Clerk Brad Metcalf, say they reported the harassment but were punished by GOP lawmakers who were trying to cover it up. They both filed lawsuits in state court.
As part of those lawsuits, the woman who made the accusations against the lawmakers gave a deposition. Olivo and Metcalf’s attorney, Shane Sidebottom, has asked a judge to release portions of the transcript.
“She testified to some very disturbing facts regarding harassment and sexual assault,” Sidebottom said. “It’s in the public interest; it all involves public employees, a public taxpayer funded agency. Taxpayers have a right to know what goes on in agencies that they fund with their taxes.”
On Thursday, an attorney for Hoover, DeCesare and Meredith asked a judge not to release the deposition. Leslie Vose told the judge the woman and her clients have a contract that states they all “agreed to keep certain information confidential.” She wants to review the transcript before it becomes public so she can decide if she needs to file a motion asking for portions of it to be sealed “as necessary to effectuate the contractual agreement.” A hearing is scheduled for next week.
Vose did not return a phone call or email message seeking comment.
Linder has been represented by attorney Kerry Harvey. Harvey did not return a phone message seeking comment.
Hoover resigned as House speaker in January but kept his seat in the legislature. DeCesare, Linder and Meredith all lost their committee chairmanships. DeCesare and Linder are not running for re-election. Hoover is on the ballot but has no opposition. Meredith faces Democrat William Fishback on Nov. 6.
Hoover has denied he sexually harassed the woman. But he said he sent her inappropriate but consensual text messages, including asking her to send photos of herself in her underwear. Copies of those messages were released earlier this year as part of a settlement with the Legislative Ethics Commission, where Hoover agreed to a public reprimand and a $1,000 fine.
The commission dismissed ethics complaints against the other lawmakers.
Olivo’s lawsuit, filed in December , alleges Hoover had “physical, sexual encounters” with the woman “both during work hours and outside of work hours.” Olivo said she did not witness these encounters but the woman told her about them. However, shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the woman’s attorney released a statement saying the allegations of sexual relations were “absolutely not true.”
The dispute over the deposition comes after state officials agreed to pay $1.5 million to four women who accused their supervisor at a prison of sexually harassing them.
On Wednesday, Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration sued the Courier Journal to conceal details of sexual harassment allegations by Adria Johnson, the former commissioner of the Department of Community Based Services. Johnson has not sued the state, and an internal investigation did not substantiate her allegations.
Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, who is running for governor in 2019, ruled the Cabinet must release the details. The Bevin administration appealed by filing a lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court. Earlier this month, a judge ordered the state to release the names of other state workers who had been accused but cleared of sexual harassment.
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