House Republicans announce hiring of legal council before holding four-hour closed-door meeting

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By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Kentucky House Republicans held a four-hour closed-door meeting Tuesday afternoon and released little information afterwards.

Speaker Pro-Tem David Osborne, R-Prospect, spoke briefly with reporters at the conclusion of the meeting but didn’t divulge much of anything new about the status of the pension bill.

“We had a very brief meeting with the Senate this morning and had staff working on that,” he said.

He then referred to the ongoing investigation into alleged sexual harassment and its effect on coming up with a final pension bill.

Speaker Pro-Tem David Osborne

“This has kind of obviously diverted a little bit of our attention, and we are not able to focus our full efforts on that (the pension) right this second. But we do have staff and several members that are continuing to work on it every day.”

As the meeting began, House Republicans issued a statement where they announced they have retained the Middleton Reutlinger law firm to conduct the investigation and advise the Speaker’s office on personnel and human resources issues in the situation.

The statement also said they had learned more information on the situation. Osborne was asked what that might be. “We’re learning new things every day, as this unfolds,” he said. “We’re not going to talk about personnel matters.”

Shortly after the House released their statement Tuesday afternoon, House Democrats also issued a statement in which they urged a meeting of the entire Legislation Research Commission, which consists of leaders of both parties in the House and Senate.

“As you aware, state law authorizes a meeting of the LRC upon written request of at least three meetings,” it said. “We would urge you to act expeditiously by informing of your decision on this request by no later than 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 8.”

The letter was signed by Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook; Minority Whip Wilson Stone, D-Scottsville; and Caucus Chairman Dennis Keane, D-Wilder, which is enough to authorize a special meeting.

Osborne declined to comment on that statement. He did say there were no changes in Republican Leadership or staff on Tuesday.

Gov. Matt Bevin has repeatedly said he wants to call a special session of the General Assembly yet this year to enact legislation changing the state’s public pension systems, which are among the worst-funded in the nation, with an unfunded liability between $20 billion and $64 billion, depending on which figures are used.

Osborne was asked if a special session will occur and said, “I can’t speculate on that.” A follow-up question was whether the harassment allegations against former Speaker Jeff Hoover and three other House members could derail the process.

“We’re still going to do the business of Kentucky,” he replied, adding they’re still working on the pension bill.
In a memo sent to House Republican staff members by Osborne on Tuesday, he informed them of the law firm hired to conduct the investigation.

“As part of this investigation, several of you may be contacted and requested to provide any information you may have concerning the recent events and the work environment in our offices. We ask and encourage everyone to provide appropriate information to the Middleton Reutlinger lawyers. There will, of course, be no retaliation against any person for providing this information to the lawyers.”

The memo said Osborne could be contacted directly on human resource questions and that “we, as public servants, collectively remain focused on solving the serious policy problems facing the people of Kentucky.”

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