Kentucky's GOP House Majority Floor Leader says party members remain united behind Speaker Jeff Hoover, despite reports this week that he quietly settled a sexual harassment claim by a female staffer outside of court.
"As we move forward right now, he has the full support of this caucus to lead it," Rep. Jonathan Shell told a bank of reporters outside the House GOP offices Friday.
Shell emerged after an hours-long, closed-door caucus meeting during which the Lancaster Republican said no vote was taken on Hoover's future as chamber leader. Pressed on the veracity of the claims, Shell repeatedly referred to the Courier-Journal reporting as "rumors and allegations" and said the party spent most of the meeting exploring how to keep pension reform alive.
"This bill was in trouble before anything came out in the Courier-Journal," he responded. "Whenever you talk about the impact across the state, we're just trying get something that we can actually pass, something that substantially impacts the pension problem."
Shell would not confirm whether the harassment allegations are true or if a settlement was reached.
Asked why Hoover didn’t use the opportunity to put any false rumors to rest, the leader said the speaker was in a meeting. Quizzed on the optics, Shell added, "I think that could be said the same way, that as you all see it as a rumor and allegation, the more that you perpetuate it, the more that people are going to look at it as a distraction."
While the majority leader stopped short of labeling the allegations a distraction, he said lawmakers could still be hammering out problems with the pension bill right up until Gov. Matt Bevin’s promised special legislative session.