Lawsuit dropped in case stemming from harassment settlement

FILE – In this Jan. 8, 2018, file photo, Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover resigns from his leadership position during a speech at the State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky. Hoover has dropped a lawsuit demanding that a woman give back the $110,000 she received in a secret sexual harassment settlement involving them. An attorney for Hoover and two other men announced Friday, Aug. 9, 2019 that his clients agreed to dismiss their lawsuit against the woman, a former Republican staffer. (AP Photo/Michael Reaves, File)

FRANKFORT – Kentucky’s former House speaker on Friday dropped a lawsuit demanding that a woman give back the $110,000 she received in a secret sexual harassment settlement.

Ex-House Speaker Jeff Hoover and two southcentral Kentucky men – state Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Brownsville, and former state Rep. Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green – agreed to dismiss their suit against the woman, a former Republican staffer. The move came in a courtroom in Lexington as the woman’s attorney prepared to argue for her motion seeking the same outcome.

It was the latest twist in a case that toppled Hoover as one of the state’s most powerful politicians. It came amid the #metoo movement that exposed the behavior of powerful men in business, government, entertainment and media – with many losing their jobs.

Hoover claimed the gavel as Kentucky House speaker after Republicans took control of the 100-member chamber in 2017 after nearly a century of Democratic control. He is still a House member.

The attorney representing the woman said Friday that her client was pleased with the suit’s dismissal.

“Her whole goal has only ever been to move on with her life and put this all behind her,” the lawyer, Gail Langendorf, said in a phone interview.

The Associated Press does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted or harassed unless they have chosen to publicly identify themselves.

The attorney representing the three men did not immediately return phones calls and an email seeking comment.

The attorney declined comment while leaving the courthouse Friday, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

The lawsuit had claimed the woman violated a confidentiality agreement and sought the return of the settlement money plus interest. The suit was filed by Hoover along with Meredith and DeCesare. All three are Republicans.

The lawsuit claimed the woman told two co-workers about the settlement, violating the agreement. Both workers – House GOP Communications Director Daisy Olivo and House Clerk Brad Metcalf – have since been fired and both have filed whistleblower lawsuits alleging they were punished for reporting the harassment. The woman could still be a witness in the whistleblower suits.

In her dismissal motion, Langendorf said the suit was intended to “punish, harass and financially ruin” her client. Langendorf has said her client did not violate the agreement because the settlement is, or should have been, public record, subject to open records law.

Hoover and the other lawmakers paid the woman with their own money to keep the settlement out of court and out of the news. The settlement was revealed by the Courier Journal.

Hoover subsequently resigned as state House speaker. DeCesare did not run for re-election in 2018, but Hoover was re-elected to the House without opposition. And after Meredith easily defeated a Democratic opponent, the House GOP leadership team restored him as a committee chairman.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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