Statement from Kentucky House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne Concerning Investigation
FRANKFORT, Ky. (December 1, 2017) – Based on the report received today from Middleton Reutlinger, we are sending this investigation to the Legislative Ethics Commission. While most people were cooperative to varying degrees, one current and one former staff member refused to speak with our attorneys. Further, there is at least one document that our investigators could not obtain that is crucial to this investigation.
We are asking the Ethics Commission to take it from here and subpoena anyone and any document they need to complete the work begun by Middleton Reutlinger. There is still information we don’t have, and we believe the Ethics Commission can and should get it to give the people of Kentucky a full and complete picture of what happened. The formal process for sending this to the Ethics Commission is the filing of a complaint, which I have personally signed today. It is attached to this statement. To be clear, I am not personally alleging any violations of Kentucky law or ethics rules, but am simply formalizing the hand off of this matter in the manner prescribed to me by the Director of the Legislative Ethics Commission.
The investigators did a thorough job, interviewing 40 individuals, reviewing thousands of emails, and even obtaining a lengthy audio recording of a conversation among witnesses that shed tremendous light on the situation. The law firm will come in far under the estimated cost, which is good news for taxpayers. For the record, Middleton Reutlinger is one of the most respected law firms in Kentucky and is not, contrary to some ridiculous media reports, a partisan operation. We encourage reporters covering this matter to check the campaign finance records of the lead author of the report.
We are preparing internally to be responsive to the recommendations in this report, and we will be working toward that objective in the weeks and months ahead. I know I speak for the entire House Republican Caucus when I say that we must have airtight human resources policies that promote a zero-tolerance environment for sexual harassment. We are committed to a healthy, efficient, and professional working environment for our staff so that they can give Kentucky citizens the best possible service.
We want to thank the members of our staff and caucus who cooperated with the investigation. We owe it to the taxpayers and all citizens to be as transparent as possible. To say that we are disappointed with people who chose not to participate is an understatement, as a lack of cooperation delays the public from obtaining the full truth.
The attorneys confirmed a problem that we had identified — there is no uniform, formal system for reporting, investigating, or addressing workplace complaints. The Republican Majority was elected to change the culture in Frankfort. Therefore, I am exploring the concept of creating a task force to develop a formal system within the LRC and General Assembly to address all workplace complaints.
The task force should be bipartisan and bicameral; I have asked Representatives Ken Fleming and Kim Moser to take the lead on developing this idea. The goal of the task force is to review existing systems, identify flaws, and design the framework for legislation that will ensure the General Assembly is a proper and professional workplace. We expect the recommendations in the Middleton Reutlinger report will be part of any proposed legislation and policy updates.
I would like a recommendation on legislation before February 15, 2018, so that we can move on solutions before we adjourn sine die on April 15. We cannot wait to fix problems that have come to light as a result of this matter. I am sending a letter to leadership in both parties in both chambers requesting their thoughts on and participation in a task force of this nature.
Further, we have been in contact with the Kentucky SHRM Council (KYSHRM), the state affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). They have generously offered to work with us as we update the policies identified in the Middleton Reutlinger report. We are grateful for their support and will be calling upon them for help in designing workplace policies that will hopefully be the national gold standard.
We will be discussing all of this further as a caucus matter when the GOP caucus meets in retreat next week. As we make further decisions and move forward on implementing improvements, we will keep the public and press informed, as we have during the course of this investigation.
Questions and Answers from Middleton Reutlinger
- We know about the Hoover text messages. Did you uncover any messages between the other three members and any female staff? Did you uncover any evidence of any relationship at all between the other three members and the complainant? No. The other three members did not waive legislative privilege to allow us to search their email accounts and did not provide us the demand letter, although they did submit to interviews. No one other than the claimant reported any harassment, and she declined to be interviewed. This does not mean other messages don’t exist, but we did not locate them in the course of the investigation.
- To be clear, did any Members of the General Assembly sexually harass a female staff member or not? Other than the claimant, we are not aware of any other complaints or issues. With respect to the claimant, we do not have any evidence of anything that would rise to the level of sexual harassment, but her declining to cooperate leaves us unable to fully answer this question.
- Based on this investigation, should any staff members be fired? Personnel decisions will be made by House Leadership, and we are planning to follow up with a memo on internal personnel issues in the coming days.
- Is non-cooperation of a current staff member a firing offense? Partisan staff members are at-will employees and can be terminated at the discretion of the House Leadership.
- Did you find any violations of state law or the existing ethics code? We have found no definite violations of state laws or existing ethics rules, but there are potential violations addressed in the complaint signed today by Rep. Osborne and transmitted to the Legislative Ethics Commission. As noted in our report, ethics laws should be updated to prohibit secret settlements. Further, we recommended this matter be sent to the Legislative Ethics Commission because, due to lack of cooperation, some information remains unknown.
CLICK HERE FOR ETHICS COMPLAINT: Ethics Complaint.pdf
CLICK HERE FOR COPY OF INVESTIGATION REPORT: Osborne letter with Investigation Report.pdf