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Whistleblower Asks Appeals Court To Keep Kentucky Lawmakers Out Of Lawsuit

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Lawyers representing two former legislative staffers have asked an appeals court to prevent lawmakers accused of harassment from intervening in their whistleblower lawsuits.

Attorney Shane Sidebottom asked the Kentucky Court of Appeals in a motion filed Wednesday to vacate a decision allowing Republican Reps. Jeff Hoover, Michael Meredith and Jim DeCesare to intervene in the whistleblower cases.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ordered in December that the lawmakers could intervene in order to cross examine the testimony of a former staffer, who detailed sexual harassment and assault allegations against the lawmakers in a sealed deposition.

The staffer’s testimony was obtained by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Kentucky Public Radio, which published allegations that Hoover sexually assaulted her more than 50 times during her employment between 2015 and 2017.

KyCIR doesn’t identify alleged victims of sexual harassment or assault without their consent, and the staffer is identified in some court records as Jane Doe.

Her allegations first came to light in November 2017 when the Courier Journal revealed that the lawmakers had made a secret settlement with the woman, paying her $110,000 and imposing a non-disclosure agreement.

In a pair of conflicting rulings on December 17, a judge presiding over one of the cases — Thomas Wingate — blocked the lawmakers from intervening in the whistleblower lawsuit and granted an order protecting the former staffer from cross examination.

But Shepherd ruled that the lawmakers would be allowed to intervene.

Sidebottom is the lawyer representing Daisy Olivo, a former staffer who said she was retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment and whose case is in Shepherd’s court. Sidebottom said the ruling was a “substantial miscarriage of justice.”

“Now, a year after settling all of her sexual harassment and assault claims in a mediation, [the lawmakers] — who dislike Doe’s subpoenaed testimony — have been granted permission to re-litigate their settled sexual harassment claim,” Sidebottom wrote in the motion.

Last week, a lawyer for Hoover and the other lawmakers filed notice that she intended to conduct the cross-examination of the accuser’s testimony on Friday.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the type of document filed by the whistleblower’s attorney.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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