Two state cabinets are appealing a judge’s order that they must reimburse the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting for legal costs after withholding public records. Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip J. Shepherd ruled this spring that the Labor and Finance and Administration cabinets “willfully” violated open records laws when they refused to release the names of employees accused of sexual harassment, but internal investigations didn’t deem the allegations substantiated. Shepherd ordered the Labor Cabinet to pay more than $17,000, and the Finance and Administration Cabinet to pay more than $19,000, to KyCIR for legal costs and penalties. In a Monday filing, the Labor Cabinet said that Shepherd’s decision to award fees was an “abuse of discretion.” The cabinet argued that it operated in “good faith” in its decision to withhold records, and should not be punished for its interpretation of the law. That cabinet has already turned over the name it previously withheld of a staffer accused of sexual harassment. Court records show that Hector Fonseca was under a court order to stay away from a woman who accused him of domestic violence when a coworker in September 2016 said Fonseca exposed himself and forced her to touch his genitals.
At Little Sandy Correctional Complex in northeastern Kentucky, prison leaders created a culture that “may have contributed to acts of sexual harassment and a reluctance to report allegations of sexual harassment,” according to a state report.
The judge ordered the Labor Cabinet to pay more than $16,000 in legal fees and an $800 penalty because it disregarded legal precedent when it redacted the name of an employee who was accused of sexual harassment.
Our investigation found that the legislative commission that looked into Rep. Jeff Hoover’s alleged ethics violations knew about the woman’s claims of unwanted touching, but didn’t publicly discuss them or seriously investigate the veracity of the claim.
Former Rep. Brad Montell’s name was not associated with the sexual harassment scandal until KyCIR reported on the contents of the deposition. The woman said Montell made a sexually suggestive remark when she asked him to donate to a candidate she was working for.
The Kentucky Democratic Party is calling for Republican state Reps. Jeff Hoover and Michael Meredith to resign in the wake of an investigation published Tuesday detailing testimony by a former staffer alleging sexual harassment by the lawmakers. The woman alleged that Hoover sexually assaulted her more than 50 times, and that Meredith screamed vulgar comments at her. The woman, identified in some court records as Jane Doe, made the allegations in a sealed deposition obtained by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Kentucky Public Radio. In the 270-page document, the woman alleged that Hoover repeatedly groped her without her consent throughout her employment with the House Republican Caucus between 2015 and 2017.