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Dems may back off special meeting request after law firm hired to investigate harassment allegations

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Kentucky House Democrats may be backing off a call for a special meeting of the Legislative Research Commission after the Republican Caucus hired a law firm to investigate the allegations of sexual harassment against four members.

The Majority Republicans announced on Tuesday that 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.

(Photo by Tom Latek/Kentucky Today)

The allegations led then-Speaker Jeff Hoover last Sunday to resign his leadership position, although he is keeping his House seat.

Shortly after the House issued the statement, which was released while they were in what turned out to be a four-hour closed meeting, House Democrats also issued a statement and released a letter, 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 are aware, state law authorizes a meeting of the LRC upon written request of at least three members,” it read. “We would urge you to act expeditiously by informing us 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 Keene, D-Wilder, which is enough to authorize a special meeting.

On Wednesday afternoon, Adkins said, “We had our first discussion today with Republican House leadership and reiterated that the House Democratic leadership’s priority is to have an investigation that is transparent, thorough and independent. We are still in discussions to accomplish this goal.”

A spokesman for House Democrats said the Wednesday meeting was in response to the letter, but that they are still giving strong consideration to calling an LRC meeting.

The controversy began last week amid published reports that Hoover secretly settled a sexual harassment claim by a female staffer and later reports that three more lawmakers faced accusations as well.
On Tuesday, Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne admitted to reporters after their four-hour marathon meeting that the swirl of events has affected efforts to reach agreement on a bill to reform Kentucky ailing public pension plans.

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

Gov. Matt Bevin has vowed to call a special session this year to address the pension underfunding, which is estimated between $20 billion and $64 billion, before the 2018 regular session, which begins in January and includes having to pass a state budget for the next two fiscal years.

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