2015 memo: Kentucky lawmaker accused of improper behavior

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A 2015 memo from the former chief of staff of the Kentucky House Republican Caucus says a GOP lawmaker was accused of making “unwanted verbal advances” on a female courier.

The memo from Brad Metcalf says the woman filed a formal complaint against Rep. Jim Stewart with the Legislative Research Commission, the state agency that assists lawmakers with researching and writing legislation. The woman accused Stewart of making inappropriate comments to her calling her after work hours on her personal cell phone in 2015.

“The intensity of the inappropriate remarks has carried over into various public settings, and has led to a great deal of embarrassment on the part of the courier,” Metcalf wrote in the memo.

According to the memo, the commission’s human resources director and general counsel met with Stewart in February 2015 and told him a complaint had been filed against him. Stewart then agreed to avoid contacting the woman, who as a courier would deliver correspondence to offices throughout the state Capitol campus.

But Stewart now says the complaint does not exist, telling reporters “If somebody filed a complaint they would have told me, wouldn’t they?”

“It surprised me when I saw it. It surprised me. Then your family sees it in the paper. I don’t know when it was or who it was. I mean, I don’t know who he is talking about.” Stewart said. “I’ve never settled (a complaint), never paid, never been before (the) Legislative Ethics (Commission).”

The Legislative Research Commission denied a request by The Associated Press and other media outlets for any records related to the complaint. Greg Woosley, the commission’s general counsel, did not confirm the records existed. But he said disclosure of such records, if they exist, would constitute “a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” subject to attorney-client privilege.

Stewart, who represents a district in eastern Kentucky, would be at least the sixth Kentucky lawmaker accused of sexually harassing behavior in the past year. Last summer, Senate Democrats removed Sen. Julian Carroll from the leadership team after allegations surfaced of him groping a man in 2005. Carroll has declined to comment about the report and has refused to resign.

And in October, four Republican lawmakers signed a secret sexual harassment settlement involving a woman who once worked in the House Republican Caucus. Three of those lawmakers were stripped of their committee chairmanships. And the fourth, Rep. Jeff Hoover, resigned as House Speaker in January.

Acting House Speaker David Osborne said he had someone ask the Legislative Research Commission about the incident and was told “they did not have a record of it.” He said he did not know about a complaint filed against Stewart.

“From what I was just told about the memo, it sounds like it was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction so I guess it was handled appropriately,” he said.

Metcalf is the former chief of staff for the House Republican Caucus. He became the House Clerk in 2017, but the was fired Jan. 1. Last week, Metcalf sued the Legislative Research Commission, saying he was fired in retaliation for him reporting the inappropriate behavior of multiple lawmakers. The allegations against Stewart first appeared in the lawsuit.

AP and other media outlets the obtained the 2015 memo written by Metcalf. Shane Sidebottom, Metcalf’s attorney, confirmed it was authentic.

The Legislative Research Commission denied a request from AP last year for copies of all records relating to sexual harassment complaints and settlements involving elected officials.

The Legislative Ethics Commission has scheduled a hearing next month to determine if the four lawmakers violated any ethics laws. The commission could fine them, or recommend they be removed from office. Since the #metoo movement began last year, two state lawmakers have been removed from office after facing sexual harassment allegations: Democrat Steve Lebsock in Colorado and Republican Don Shooter in Arizona.

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