Knox County’s State Representative is in hot water after reports surfaced he allegedly harassed a staffer in 2015.
In a Mountain Advocate exclusive interview Thursday, Stewart reiterated he was not part of any lawsuits currently against the LRC. “Don’t get me confused,” said Stewart. “There’s a pending lawsuit against the LRC. I know for a fact it’s not against me.”
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported in a story on its website Wednesday that 86thDistrict Representative Jim Stewart (R-Flat Lick) was accused of making “unwanted verbal advances toward her, using language and tonality that she did not approve of” over an extended period of time.
The Herald-Leader became aware of the accusation against Stewart when a former House chief clerk filed a whistleblower lawsuit last week. The clerk, Brad Metcalf, alleged he was fired for reporting harassing text messages from a member of the House of Representatives, among other threats. In the lawsuit, he mentions a previous sexual harassment complaint filed against Stewart, who told the Herald-Leader he was surprised to see his name attached to Metcalf’s lawsuit, and claims he has no knowledge of any complaints lodged against him.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never hired a lawyer, never paid anybody, never been in front of the legislative ethics (commission), I don’t even know what he’s talking about,” Stewart is quoted as telling the Herald-Leader.
In an interview Thursday evening with The Mountain Advocate, Stewart said he was unaware of the situation. “If there was a complaint filed against me, it went through proper procedures and was resolved.” He went on to say “If there is an ongoing formal complaint against me, I know nothing about it. No one has been to see me.”
The Herald-Leader filed an open records request, but was denied by the LRC (Legislative Research Committee). LRC staff denied the Herald-Leader’s request in a letter dated March 14, citing release of the information would “constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” as well as citing attorney-client privilege.
The newspaper obtained an LRC memo dated February 10, 2015, written by Metcalf. According to the Herald-Leader, Metcalf writes in the memo “that he was informed by LRC Human Resources Director Roy Collins that a legislative employee had alleged Stewart ‘made unwanted verbal advances toward her, using language and tonality that she did not approve of’ over an extended period of time.” Metcalf went on to write, (the staffer) “had attempted to avoid interaction with him whenever possible,” and “he would wait for her in other legislative suites, and engage in allegedly inappropriate conversations with her.”
Metcalf noted “Recently, the intensity of the inappropriate remarks has carried over into various public settings, and has led to a great deal of embarrassment,” and “began making calls to her throughout the day and after work hours.” These alleged occurrences led to the filing of the complaint.
Nothing in information available to The Mountain Advocate suggests the alleged complaints were of a sexual nature.
Although Stewart originally denied any knowledge of the complaint, the memo indicates he met on February 9, 2015 with Collins and LRC General Counsel Laura Hendrix, at which time he agreed “to cease all communication with the staffer.”
The accusations against Stewart come on the heels of reports of misconduct by several members of the Kentucky House of Representatives. Most notably, then-House Speaker Jeff Hoover resigned from the speaker position.