Lawsuit filed by Jeff Hoover, other Kentucky lawmakers against a former staffer dismissed
Published 2:25 p.m. ET Aug. 9, 2019 | Updated 6:21 p.m. ET Aug. 9, 2019
A lawsuit filed by former House speaker Jeff Hoover and two other lawmakers against a former legislative staffer who had accused them of sexual harassment has been dismissed.
The lawsuit accused the former staffer, Marissa Espinosa, of violating confidentiality terms of a settlement the lawmakers reached with her in 2017 over the allegations and asked that she be forced to repay the $110,000 she received.
The matter became public after the Courier Journal reported the settlement. Hoover later admitted sending inappropriate text messages to Espinosa but denied harassing her. He resigned as speaker of the House but remained in the legislature and was reelected last November.
Espinosa denied she violated confidentiality terms of the settlement and asked the lawsuit filed in Fayette Circuit Court be dismissed.
Friday, a judge dismissed the case after a lawyer for Hoover, Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Brownsville, and former Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Rockfield, did not object, said Espinosa's lawyer, Gail Langendorf.
In their lawsuit, Hoover, Meredith and DeCesare say they "categorically denied and disputed any unwelcome or harassing conduct" toward Espinosa.
Previously: Ex-legislative staffer argues settlement with Hoover is a public record
The lawmakers also have dropped attempts to question her through a deposition, Langendorf said.
"She's happy," Langendorf said. "She's very relieved."
Leslie Vose, a lawyer for Hoover, Meredith and DeCesare, did not respond to a request for comment.
Another lawmaker involved in the settlement with Espinosa, former Rep. Brian Linder, a Dry Ridge Republican, did not join the subsequent lawsuit against her.
Espinosa remains a potential witness in a pair of separate, whistleblower lawsuits filed by two other former staffers at the Legislative Research Commission who alleged they suffered retaliation and lost their jobs after trying to report alleged harassment of Espinosa.
The lawsuits of Brad Metcalf and Daisy Olivo are pending in Franklin Circuit Court.
As part of their case against their former employer, the two obtained a deposition of Espinosa, who gave a detailed, sworn statement about harassment she said she experienced while on the staff of House Republican leaders.
The deposition has remained sealed amid efforts by the former lawmakers to keep it that way, though its contents were reported by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting earlier this year.
Earlier: Judges asked to bar Hoover, other lawmakers from whistleblower case
Lawyers for Olivo and Metcalf, Shane Sidebottom and Hans Poppe, have said it contains details that are graphic and likely embarrassing to the lawmakers.
Langendorf, who is not involved in the whistleblower cases, said she didn't know whether the deposition would remain sealed now that the lawmakers have dropped the lawsuit and indicated they don't wish to question her.
Sidebottom, a lawyer in the whistleblower case, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Deborah Yetter: 502-582-4228; email@example.com; Twitter: @d_yetter.