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Hoover, GOP Lawmakers Move To Seal Sexual Harassment Testimony

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Ryland Barton
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A lawyer for former House Speaker Jeff Hoover and two other Republican lawmakers made the case on Wednesday for sealing a former staffer’s testimony that she was sexually assaulted and harassed by the men.

The woman was deposed in a whistleblower lawsuit filed by another staffer who says she was retaliated against for reporting harassment.

Now Leslie Vose, the legislators’ lawyer, argues that the former staffer violated a confidentiality agreement by talking in the deposition about allegations she had made against the men.

The lawmakers are trying to intervene in the whistleblower lawsuit, asking that information on 40 pages of the 269-page deposition be redacted before they become public record as evidence in the case.

Hans Poppe, a lawyer representing Jane Doe’s supervisor in the whistleblower lawsuit, said that the deposition includes allegations that Hoover touched the woman “in an inappropriate area” without her consent.

“She testified that she felt she had to acquiesce to Hoover because of his position of power and that she was told by others that ‘you need to keep Speaker Hoover happy,’” Poppe said.

Vose said that Doe “didn’t care” whether the information became public record or not. Jane Doe’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Hoover and Republican Reps. Michael Meredith of Oakland, Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green and Brian Linder admitted to paying Jane Doe $110,000 last year in an out-of-court settlement after she made unspecified allegations against them.

The secret agreement was first reported by the Courier Journal last year and quickly exploded into a scandal that eventually led to Hoover’s resignation as speaker and deep divisions among the House Republican caucus.

Jane Doe’s initial accusations have still not been made public because of a non-disclosure agreement included in the settlement.

Hoover said he exchanged inappropriate text messages with the woman, making a public admission to the Legislative Ethics Commission that he had broken ethics rules.

The commission dismissed an ethics complaint against the other lawmakers, but during proceedings shed light on accusations made against them — Meredith was accused of saying something “vulgar” to the staffer, while DeCesare and Linder allegedly exchanged inappropriate texts with her.

Shane Sidebottom, another lawyer representing Jane Doe’s supervisor, said the deposition goes beyond what was discussed publicly during the ethics commission hearings.

“We’re not doctors, we’re not police officers. What you define sexual assault as is sometimes subjective, but from her perspective she was sexually assaulted many, many times,” Sidebottom said.

Hoover and Meredith won re-election to their seats in the Kentucky House of Representatives on Tuesday — Hoover ran uncontested. Linder and DeCesare did not seek re-election.

Ryland is the state capitol reporter for the Kentucky Public Radio Network, a group of public radio stations including WKU Public Radio. A native of Lexington, Ryland has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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