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Former Speaker Hoover Settles Ethics Complaint, Will Be Fined $1000

Former Speaker Hoover Settles Ethics Complaint, Will Be Fined $1000

An ethics complaint against former Speaker of the House Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, came to a close Tuesday much as it began - with a settlement that avoided public discussion of the events which led to a settlement of sexual harassment claims by a former staff employee.

Under the agreement, Rep. Hoover was required to acknowledge that he violated state ethics laws while text messaging with a female legislative employee, pay a $1,000 fine, and admit his wrongdoing to the commission.

The agreement was made behind closed doors between Hoover's attorney and the ethics commission prosecutor.

The commission partly based its decision to fine and reprimand Hoover on copies of flirtatious text messages between Hoover and the former staffer from 2016, when Hoover was still the minority leader of the state House.

The commission reviewed pages of text messages between Hoover and the woman before agreeing to accept the settlement. According to the settlement signed by all four lawmakers on October 25, 2017, the woman received $66,000 and her lawyers received $44,000. Eight Republican lawmakers filed formal charges against Hoover earlier this year seeking to expel him from the legislature.

The only person who voted against accepting the agreement was Pat Freibert, the only woman on the commission.

When the commission denied her motion, Vose said Hoover would agree to a negotiated settlement. A $1,000 fine and a public reprimand.

The woman's allegations previously led to Jeff Hoover's signing of a secret sexual harassment settlement a year ago.

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John Phillips, an attorney representing the woman, said his client was comfortable with the settlement.

He admitted to sending inappropriate text messages but said everything that happened was consensual in prior statements. They were parties to the private cash settlement of the case with the woman.

House Bill 9, which would add sexual harassment to a list of violations in the legislative ethics code, has stalled in the Senate.

There are other aspects of the scandal still pending, including two whistleblower lawsuits filed by legislative staffers accusing Hoover and others of retaliating against them for their efforts to report harassment of their coworker. In one, after the woman says Hoover looks "perfect", he responds by saying "Haha". As he did last week, Malone also said the money for the settlement came from loans and personal funds of the lawmakers.

Hoover's admission of guilt Tuesday was similar to the emotional statement he made on the House floor in January, when he officially resigned as Speaker of the House.

Also present Tuesday were Brad Metcalf, a former member of Hoover's staff, and Daisy Olivo, communications staffer for House Republicans.

Hoover spoke briefly to the commission, telling them, "I have acknowledged from day one, publicly and privately, that the text message bantering that I engaged in with a staffer was inappropriate". But the House voted to dismiss those charges and let the ethics commission handle the investigation.


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