Late last week, the media reported that the Speaker of the House Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown) had secretly settled a sexual harassment complaint with a member of his staff. The media reports included suggestive text messages between the staffer and the Speaker. Additional media reports have identified several other GOP House members (Rep. Jim Decesare, Rep. Brian Linder, and Rep. Michael Meredith) and House leadership staff that may have been involved or knowledgeable about the settlement. There were even mentions of an FBI investigation. After calls for the Hoover’s resignation from several GOP House members and the Governor, he ultimately stepped down from his leadership post on Sunday, but maintains his House seat.
This media report gives a good timeline of the entire situation.
According to this statement by the House GOP Leadership:
- Speaker Pro-Tem David Osborne has taken over the operations of the House;
- An independent investigation to look into the matter has been established;
- The three members listed above have all been stripped of their Chairmanships until the independent investigation is completed; and
- The House GOP Leadership team will meet with legal counsel this week to determine actions in regards to staff.
A new Speaker cannot be elected officially until the House is back in session as the Speaker is a constitutional officer and elected by the entire body of the House. However, the House GOP caucus could nominate a new Speaker in the near future pending ratification once the legislature is back in session.
This scandal certainly comes at a critical time for the legislature as they are working with the Governor to craft a public employee pension reform bill to pass in a special session before the end of the year. This will likely have some impact on that process.