FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's Republican governor says a sexual harassment scandal in the statehouse involves "multiple events and multiple people" and has called on everyone involved to resign immediately without naming them publicly.
Gov. Matt Bevin held a news conference at the state Capitol on Saturday, days after the Courier-Journal reported Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover settled a sexual harassment claim outside of court with one of his staffers.
"I am calling ... for the immediate resignation of every individual who has settled a sexual harassment case who is party to trying to hide this type of behavior," Bevin said. He stressed that the allegations have not been denied and that they "were not isolated to a single person or a single event but involve multiple events and multiple people."
Bevin did not name Hoover or anyone else. But in a news release Saturday night, Hoover said he was disappointed that Bevin called for his resignation. He said he has no plans to resign and said he is "more resolved than ever" to continue in his leadership post.
"The governor has yet to ask our side of the story, he and I have not spoken since the story broke, and I did not receive a courtesy call from him before his grandstanding today," Hoover said. "In effect, the governor seeks to be judge, jury, and executioner without hearing the evidence."
House GOP leaders said they plan to hire a private law firm to investigate the allegations. The leaders said they did not consult Hoover about the decision to launch an investigation, but had told him about it. The release said the investigators would have the power to subpoena witnesses.
"Speaker Hoover, as of now, has the support of the Republican caucus to remain in his leadership position," according to a statement attributed to Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne, Majority Leader Jonathan Shell, Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher and Majority Caucus chairman David Meade. "And we reserve the right, based on the results of the investigation, to revisit the status of anyone involved, including Speaker Hoover."
But support for Hoover among the House Republican caucus appeared to weaken on Saturday. A group of eight Republican lawmakers issued a statement echoing Bevin's concerns and calling for the "immediate resignation of all members involved in the confidential settlement."
Hoover has refused to confirm or deny the settlement publicly. But in a private meeting with House Republicans, Hoover said he was "legally" prohibited from talking about it and said he had asked for forgiveness from his family, according to Republican state Rep. Wesley Morgan who attended the meeting.
Morgan is the only public official to call for Hoover's resignation by name.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Saturday that a staff member of the House Republican Caucus reported concerns about a toxic work environment to Hoover back on Sept. 5. But Daisy Olivo told the newspaper Hoover did not address her concerns and effectively put her on paid suspension.
"Since I have reported this to Jeff Hoover, I have been effectively isolated," Olivo said. "We have been shut out of everything."