Meredith’s leadership role is a liability for KY GOP

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State Rep. Michael Meredith (R-Brownsville) was involved in a secret sexual harassment settlement.

State Rep. Michael Meredith (photo by LRC)
State Rep. Michael Meredith (photo by LRC)

This is not hearsay; it is an absolute fact. Although he hasn’t commented to anyone in the press about it, it did happen in 2017. Three of Meredith’s Republican colleagues were also involved in this secret sexual harassment settlement: state Reps. Brian Linder of Dry Ridge, Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green and Jeff Hoover of Jamestown. Hoover lost his House speakership in the fallout from this scandal.

The lawmakers did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement, but all four ended up losing their leadership positions during the 2018 session. We said at the time that all of these men should have lost their leadership positions and should’ve resigned, because they were all involved in this shady, secret sexual harassment settlement.

We believe the Republican leadership was right to remove these men from their leadership positions, and we applauded them for doing so. We thought that would be the end of it. But now we learn that the Republican leadership in Frankfort has restored Meredith as chairman of the House Local Government Committee, which vets proposed legislation about local roads, police and fire departments and other local matters.

When we learned this news, we had to do a double-take and ask ourselves: Why would Republican leadership restore someone to a leadership position who was involved in a secret sexual harassment settlement?

Has the Republican leadership in Frankfort lost their collective minds? Do they not see what type of negative message this sends to women who work in state government and across our state?

Apparently not. Further evidence of the party not caring about the message this sends was the firing of GOP Communications Director Daisy Olivo, who was the supervisor of the woman who made the sexual harassment allegations. Olivo has a pending lawsuit against the state, alleging she was punished for reporting the harassment.

Republican leadership should be ashamed for firing a woman for simply doing her job. Firing her makes the Republican leadership look like a bunch of bullies, plain and simple.

Republican leadership should be ashamed for firing a woman for simply doing her job. Firing Olivo makes the Republican leadership look like a bunch of bullies, plain and simple.Click To Tweet

With a 60-plus-member majority in the House, one would think Republican leadership would have plenty of options in selecting a member who doesn’t have all the baggage that Meredith carries.

The optics in this situation are horrible. Did the Republican leadership simply remove Meredith last year until the smoke cleared with the assurance that, if re-elected, he would have his old leadership post back? We don’t know the answer to that, but we certainly wouldn’t rule it out.

It is also interesting that incoming House Speaker David Osborne, R-LaGrange, through a spokesman, did not directly answer questions about why Meredith was returned to his leadership role. Similarly, a spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Bevin did not respond to a phone and email message Wednesday seeking comment about Meredith. Silence, many times, is very telling. When you have two of the most powerful people in Frankfort not talking about a colleague, it could suggest they don’t want to be connected to him.

Who could blame them? When the scandal first broke, we recall Bevin suggested the four legislators involved in the settlement should resign.

Calls to Meredith from The Associated Press also were not returned. This should come as no surprise, since Meredith has never talked publicly about his involvement in this settlement, which should’ve never happened in the first place. Meredith would have been wise to have watched and learned from Linder, who had the decency and courage to go before the public and admit his wrongs.

Sadly, this isn’t who Meredith is. He hides behind his silence, but he still believes he should serve in a leadership role. Meredith doesn’t deserve this role, and if the Republican Party in Kentucky knows what’s good for it, Meredith will be stripped of this title. He is an extreme liability to the party, not an asset.

Meredith hides behind his silence, but he still believes he should serve in a leadership role. He doesn’t deserve to, and if the RPK knows what’s good for it, Meredith will be stripped of this title. He is an extreme liability to the party, not an asset.Click To Tweet

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Cross-posted from the Bowling Green Daily News
via the Kentucky Press News Service.