FRANKFORT, Ky. (CN) – The communications director for former Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover claims in a lawsuit filed Monday that she was effectively fired after disclosing a secret settlement between Hoover and a sexual harassment accuser paid for with campaign donor money.
In a complaint filed in Franklin County Circuit Court, Daisy Olivo says she became aware of an “inappropriate relationship” between Hoover and an employee she supervises – referred to in the filing as Jane Doe – in February of this year.
Olivo is employed by Legislative Research Commission, or LRC, an arm of the Kentucky General Assembly, which is the only defendant named in the lawsuit. She is represented by lead attorney Shane Sidebottom with Ziegler & Schneider.
When Hoover’s chief of staff Ginger Wills became aware of the relationship, Olivo claims Wills “stated that Doe eventually would need to be relieved of her duties and that a personnel case should be built against her for her behavior.”
Wills then told Olivo she planned to terminate Jane Doe before or shortly after Doe took a four-month military leave.
Olivo objected to the plan, and says the staffer called her while she was on military leave and told her she did “not think she [could] return to work as she now views [the relationship] as an environment of sexual harassment created by Speaker Hoover.”
According to the complaint, Olivo confronted Hoover on Sept. 5 about “the inappropriate relationship with Jane Doe, as well as the hostile work environment … and the overall toxic environment under Speaker Hoover’s and chief of staff Wills’ leadership.”
The anonymous staffer allegedly made a settlement demand when she returned to work in October, and shortly thereafter told Olivo “there has been a secret settlement to avoid media scrutiny, and that it was paid off the public record with private funds pooled from prominent campaign donors.”
“On October 26, 2017, Doe entered plaintiff’s office and informed her that she was instructed by attorneys to deliver a message that plaintiff was to cease discussing the sexual harassment alleged by Doe or filing any reports about the hostile work environment created in the communications office,” the complaint states. “Doe also informed plaintiff that Speaker Hoover and chief of staff Wills stated that plaintiff would lose her job.”
Olivo claims she contacted LRC’s general counsel and its human resources director, and then disclosed the relationship, the hostile work environment, and the “secret settlement” during a three-hour meeting on Nov. 1.
The next day, chief of staff Wills allegedly emailed Olivo the following directive: “Daisy – per conversation with Speaker, please direct all media inquiries for Speaker Hoover to Tommy Druen until further notice. Thanks!”
According to the complaint, that email “effectively eliminated plaintiff’s job duties, as she was the communications director and in charge of media relations.”
Olivo says she has been “ostracized from her job duties” since she disclosed the harassment and ensuing settlement to her employer’s attorneys, and has been unable to effectively communicate with members of the House Majority Caucus.
She claims she spoke and met with Kentucky House Budget Director Frank Willey on Nov. 17 in an attempt to get information about pending pension-reform legislation, and was rebuffed.
“Wiley informed plaintiff that there would be no information to share with her and that he would not e-mail her information in the future, based on her intention to ‘twist facts’ and ‘pit people against one another,’” the lawsuit states.
Olivo seeks compensatory and punitive damages for alleged violations of the Kentucky Whistleblower Act.
The LRC website says it was founded in 1948, and describes itself as a “fact-finding and service body for the legislature.” It did not respond Monday to a request for comment.