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Harassment Scandal Unfolds In Kentucky's State Legislature

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The speaker of the House in Kentucky's state legislature is giving up his leadership post. He is embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal that seems to involve three other Republican lawmakers as well. Kentucky Public Radio's Ryland Barton has more.

RYLAND BARTON, BYLINE: The Louisville Courier-Journal first published allegations last week that House Speaker Jeff Hoover secretly settled a sexual harassment complaint made by a female staffer. According to the report, Hoover exchanged sexually suggestive text messages and requested pictures from the woman in 2016. On Sunday Hoover stepped down from his post as speaker. He denied sexually harassing the staffer, but admitted to exchanging inappropriate texts.

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JEFF HOOVER: I engaged in banter that was consensual. But yet, no mistake, it was wrong on my part to do that. And for that, I am truly sorry.

BARTON: But Hoover says he won't give up his seat in the State House of Representatives. Three other Republican House members have been implicated in the scandal. Though their roles are still unclear, House leaders have removed them from their chairmanships on various committees while they conduct an investigation into the allegations. Governor Matt Bevin has called for everyone involved in the scandal to resign from their elected positions.

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MATT BEVIN: I expect everybody to be publicly and specifically on one side of this or the other. You either condone this behavior or you condemn this behavior. That's it.

BARTON: The allegations surfaced amid a legislative battle over Bevin's proposal to phase out the state's pension system, which would move most future and some current state workers on to 401(k)-style retirement plans. Hoover had spoken out against elements of the proposal. Without mentioning Bevin's name, Hoover said he was being silenced for speaking out.

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HOOVER: I'll leave this speaker's position with no animosity toward anyone, not even those who have been working and conspiring for months for this result.

BARTON: Hoover became speaker earlier this year. It's the first time in state history that Republicans have had control of Kentucky's House Senate and governorship at the same time. For NPR News, I'm Ryland Barton in Frankfort, Ky. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.