GOP lawmakers seek to redact parts of harassment testimony

(AP) — Three Republican lawmakers in Kentucky have asked a judge to hide portions of a woman’s testimony that describes details of allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

The woman and the lawmakers — Jeff Hoover, Michael Meredith and Jim DeCesare — signed a sexual harassment settlement last year that required everyone to keep the details secret. But two other state workers have filed lawsuits alleging they were punished for reporting the harassment.

Recently, the woman who made the original accusations gave a six-hour deposition as part of those lawsuits. Attorneys who have seen the transcript say the woman extensively described her encounters with Hoover, the former House Speaker who was re-elected to his seat in the state House of Representatives without opposition on Tuesday. The testimony includes descriptions of inappropriate sexual contact, harassment, text messages, pictures and "conduct in a parking lot of a local restaurant."

Leslie Vose, an attorney who represents the three lawmakers, told the judge that information must be redacted because it would violate the settlement the woman signed with the lawmakers last year.

"Jane Doe takes it upon herself to reiterate, embellish and possibly create information put into the record regarding some or all of my clients, to which they will have no opportunity to respond to defend themselves," Vose said.

The woman who made the accusations once worked for the House Republican Caucus. The lawsuits that prompted her deposition were filed by House Republican Caucus Communications Director Daisy Olivo and Brad Metcalf, the former House clerk. Both say they were punished for reporting the harassment to the state human resources department; Olivo says she was demoted while Metcalf was fired.

Wednesday, Shane Sidebottom, an attorney who represents Olivo and Metcalf, argued the public has a right to know the details of what happened.

"This is a matter involving public officials based on alleged conduct they have committed against a public employee while she is working on behalf of Kentucky taxpayers," he said.

Hoover has denied he sexually harassed the woman, but admitted to sending her what he called inappropriate but consensual text messages. He has forcefully denied a physical relationship with her, and an attorney representing the woman has said allegations of "sexual relations" between the two are "absolutely not true."

But Hans Poppe, another attorney representing the two state workers who was present during the woman’s testimony, says the woman describes "unwelcome touching in an inappropriate area" by Hoover and that she was counseled by others to "keep Speaker Hoover happy."

"From her perspective, she was sexually assaulted many, many times," he said.

There have been no criminal charges filed related to the accusations.

Hoover, Meredith, DeCesare and Republican Rep. Brian Linder all signed the $110,000 sexual harassment settlement last year. But it did not stay secret for long, as the Courier Journal wrote a story about it. Hoover ended up resigning as House Speaker, while the three other lawmakers all lost their committee chairmanships.

All four remain in the state legislature. Linder and DeCesare opted not to run for re-election. Hoover ran unopposed. Meredith defeated Democrat William "Bill" Fishback on Tuesday by nearly 3,500 votes.

In April, the Legislative Research Commission gave Hoover a public reprimand and fined him $1,000. The commission dismissed ethics complaints against the other three lawmakers.