An ethics panel will meet tomorrow to consider a case against four Republican lawmakers who signed a secret sexual harassment settlement. The hearing by the Legislative Ethics Commission is the result of a complaint filed by a Democratic lawmaker.
The ethics complaint is against former House Speaker Jeff Hoover and GOP Representatives Jim DeCesare, Michael Meredith, and Brian Linder. All four men signed a confidential sexual harassment settlement last October. Hoover has denied sexual harassment, but admitted to sending inappropriate but consensual text messages. He resigned as speaker in January but remains in office. John Schaaf heads the Legislative Ethics Commission and says the hearing will work much like a trial. Both sides will call witnesses who can be cross-examined.
"The Ethics Commission sits, essentially, as a panel of judges, seven of them, who will hear the entire case and make a decision."
The commission can fine the lawmakers up to two-thousand-dollars per violation and issue a public or private reprimand. The panel can also recommend the lawmakers be removed from office, but that step would require a vote from the full House of Representatives.
Schaaf said there are a range of possible punishments.
"That person could be fined or reprimanded publicly or privately. The commission could make a recommendation to the House that they be sanctioned in some way like removal from a committee all the way up to recommending they be expelled."
The Legislative Ethics Commission met four years ago to consider sexual harassment allegations against then-House member John Arnold who later resigned from office. Tomorrow’s hearing is open to the public and takes place at 9 a.m. at the Capitol Annex.