Lawsuit: Prominent campaign donor funds paid for secret settlement involving former KY House Speaker

Lawsuit: Prominent campaign donor funds paid for secret settlement involving former KY House Speaker
Rep. Jeff Hoover (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Rep. Jeff Hoover (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The communications director of the Kentucky House Republican Caucus has filed suit against the Legislative Research Commission claiming she has been the target of ongoing retaliation since disclosing the sexual harassment claims and inappropriate relationship between a female employee she supervised and former Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover.

The lawsuit, filed Monday on behalf of Daisy Olivo, states Olivo became aware of a consensual inappropriate relationship between Hoover (R-District 83/ Jamestown) and one of his employees and reprimanded the employee for the relationship.

In February, Chief of Staff Ginger Wills asked Olivo and another staff member if Hoover and the other staff member were a sexual relationship during a meeting. According to the lawsuit, Wills said she believed the staffer "had forced the speaker into a 'submissive' relationship, which was damaging Rep. Hoover's ability to do his job." Because of that Wills planned to terminate the staffer.

The staffer told Olivo she would be taking a four-month military leave. The lawsuit states Wills told Olivo to keep the staffer happy until her leave started. It also said that Wills intended to terminate the staffer before or shortly after her leave was over.

Following her leave, the staff member shared with Olivo a timeline of events and sexual encounters involving Hoover. The staff member said she did not feel like she could return to work because she viewed it as "an environment of sexual harassment created by Speaker Hoover."

Olivo confronted Hoover about the relationship, as well as a hostile work environment created by Wills and a toxic environment under their leadership on Sept. 5. The lawsuit states after that meeting Wills told majority staffers the entire communications shop "was dysfunctional and a problem."

On Oct. 16, the staffer returned to work and told Olivo she had made a settlement demand on Hoover and others for sexual harassment and against Wills. Shortly after, the lawsuit states the staff member told Olivo a secret settlement was made to avoid media scrutiny and that "it was paid off the public record with private funds pooled from prominent campaign donors."

On Oct. 26, Olivo stated the staff member told her she was instructed by her attorneys to tell Olivo to stop discussing sexual harassment allegations and hostile environment reports or Olivo would lose her job. The following day Wills instructed Olivo to report all harassments concerns to her.

Olivo met with LRC general counsel Greg Woosley and HR director Tim Holbrook and told them about the inappropriate relationship and the hostile work environment. The lawsuit states an email from Wills the next day effective eliminated Olivo's job duties.

The lawsuit states Olivo "has been subject to ongoing retaliation that has interfered and prohibited plaintiff (Olivo) from doing her job.

Olivo is seeking a trial by a jury, compensatory and punitive damages, reasonable attorney fees and costs pursuant to KRS 61.990(4) and any and all relief to which she may appear entitled.

Kentucky House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne issued the following statement on the lawsuit:

"We will not comment on pending litigation. However, I feel good about what our investigators produced Friday and am glad we made the decision to turn this matter over to the Legislative Ethics Commission. I have confirmed with our attorneys this morning that some of the information contained within the complaint was not disclosed to them during their investigation. With the Ethics Commission involved and now a lawsuit that will make even more text messages and e-mail communications discoverable, I am more confident than ever we will ultimately get the full truth about what happened.

I'm disgusted by this entire mess and want to reassure Kentucky taxpayers that we remain committed to our actual work—solving the pension crisis and preparing for our upcoming budget session of the General Assembly. We remain committed to the public finding the truth, to creating a professional and efficient work environment, and to doing the work of the people.

Under no circumstances will sexual harassment or inappropriate workplace behavior be tolerated among the House Majority Caucus or its staff, and any results of the independent bodies now reviewing the allegations will guide our actions to ensure a safe and productive work environment."

Hoover's attorney Leslie Vose released this statement about the lawsuit on Monday, claiming the allegations are false:

Hoover's attorney Leslie Vose released the following statement on behalf Garry Adams, the lawyer who represented the former LRC employee in relation to allegations against four legislators and an employee:

We represent the former LRC employee who made a claim against four legislators and another employee. Those claims were resolved in an expeditious and fair manner to the satisfaction of all parties. We have reviewed the complaint filed by Daisy Olivo against the LRC. In her complaint, Ms. Olivo states that former Speaker Hoover and our client engaged in sexual relations. Our client has confirmed this is absolutely not true. Likewise, our client was not coerced into resolving the matter. Among numerous inaccurate matters alleged by Ms. Olivo, our client did not advise her that the matter was resolved with "private funds pooled by prominent campaign donors." Based upon the investigation and documents provided to the Middleton law firm we are confident that political donor money was not used by any of those named in settlement of this claim.

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