A petition for impeachment has been filed against State Rep. Robert Goforth (R-KY) who was recently re-elected to serve the 89th district, which includes Madison County.
The petition was filed Tuesday afternoon and presented to the House of Representatives Wednesday.
According to the petition, pursuant to KRS 63.020 of the Kentucky Constitution, eight local residents called for his impeachment for engaging in “misdemeanors in office” including breach of public trust, felonious acts of violence upon women, abuse of office and state property and other misfeasance and malfeasance as outlined in the petition.
The petition was signed by a total of 10 Kentuckians.
The document, sent by Attorney Anna Whites, the counsel for petitioners, cited criminal activity, abuse of office for personal and financial gain, and financial misconduct.
“In 2020, Rep. Goforth allegedly assaulted and harmed his wife to such an extent that she sought protection from law enforcement and suffered bruising and physical damages,” it reads.
Goforth, who represents a small portion of Berea and Madison County, was indicted in September on strangulation and assault charges stemming from an incident which took place in April 2020 at his home.
“The commonwealth requires its elected officials to be persons of good moral character and conduct,” it reads. “It is wrong for this representative to sit in the Chamber and be paid for his services with our hard earned tax dollars.”
Under the ‘Abuse of office and personal and financial gain’ section of the petition of impeachment, it refers to a mailer, allegedly sent out by Goforth’s wife, to voters across his district.
“Nowhere on the letter or envelope is the requisite disclaimer or ‘paid for by’ notice,” the petition states. “The mailer went out to voters all across his Legislative District. This is a clear and obvious attempt by a State Legislator to use a plea from his abused spouse to influence the judge and prosecutor, contaminate the jury pool and impact the outcome.”
Further, the document states the mailer violates KRS 6.606, as Rep. Goforth was acting to influence those involved in his criminal prosecution, using his office and his public position.
“...The acts committed against his wife by Rep. Goforth should also be considered an obvious and express violation of the Legislative Code of Ethics. The law is clear and holding that an alleged violation of the criminal code which is designated a misdemeanor or felony is also considered a Legislative Ethics Code violation pursuant to KRS 6.632,” the petition states.
Kentucky did not have a felony strangulation crime until 2019 when the legislature created it. At that time, Goforth voted in favor of the legislation.
In addition, the petition states that, as a healthcare business owner, Goforth will suffer a financial loss and impact if convicted of a felony. Because of this, the law expressly forbids a legislator or candidate to use their position for financial gain.
“The mailer was intended to secure him a positive result both in his election, so he continues to be paid by the commonwealth, and to avoid negative impact on his pharmacy license,” it reads.
Goforth owns several pharmacies in southeastern Kentucky and on the legislature’s website lists one of his occupations as “substance abuse prevention educator.”
Finally, the petition cites financial misconduct and stated Mrs. Goforth was acting on behalf of the representative when she drafted and sent the mailer, and as such, should have been disclosed as an employee.
“Rep. Goforth has not disclosed any such employment,” it states. “In fact, Rep. Goforth has made no financial disclosures of any kind in 2020 related to his office or his campaign for re-election.”
Rep. Gorforth told The Register he received the petition, but was focused on the work of the session.
“The voters of my district overwhelmingly re-elected me last November despite a nearly constant assault upon my character. I am focused on the work of this session that the people who sent me here expect me to fulfill,” Goforth said.
“Any citizen can submit a petition such as was delivered today targeting me against any elected officials. I expect we will see a variety of frivolous petitions filed against officeholders in both parities considering the amped up political climate we are currently in.”
Mike Van Winkle, advocate and political activist, was one of the locals to sign the petition for impeachment.
Van Winkle, who ran against Goforth in the 2020 election, said the petition is about holding elected officials accountable for their actions.
“We must hold our elected officials to higher standards and ethics. His behavior and the allegations against him have cause great embarrassment to the 89th District. He kept completely quiet during the campaign and only spoke after the election,” Van Winkle said.
The political activist said he hopes the house will form a committee to review the petition as they have done with a similar petition filed last week against Gov. Andy Beshear.
“I think it should be given serious consideration. There is a real possibility we could be holding another special election, because he may become a convicted felon soon after his trial,” Van Winkle said. “He may think this petition is frivolous, however, domestic violence is not a frivolous issue. It is deadly serious and should be treated as such. People have not, and will not, forget about it and his trial will continue.”
Goforth’s case is expected to go to trial on Feb. 17.
Former Berea City Council member Emily LaDouceur said she feels Goforth is “grossly unfit to serve.”
“Goforth has seen very little in the way of accountability for his failure to fulfill his duties as a representative. His behavior throughout the duration of his time in office — riddled with criminal allegations — has been overwhelmingly unbecoming of someone in public service,” LaDouceur said.
She also noted the signers felt there was no reason to wait until the outcome of Goforth’s trial to request impeachment.
“The court of public opinion is under no obligation to wait for a conviction to take action. We have all seen the police reports outlining clear, and physically violent intimate partner abuse towards his wife. We have all seen him prop up his wife in an insulting and arguably, harmful attempt to change the narrative, all the while violating campaign regulations in the process. There is very little gray area at this point. I see no legitimate reason to wait, lest we allow another term to pass with his lack of moral rectitude, coupled with his intermittent availability and willingness to do his job,” LaDouceur said.
Goforth was first elected to represent the 89th district during a special election in 2018. He unsuccessfully challenged then-Gov. Matt Bevin during the 2019 Republican primary election for governor, taking 39% of the vote.
Attempts were made to contact Speaker of the House Rep. David Osbourne (R-KY), and Majority Floor Leader Steven Rudy. (R-KY) but they were not available at that time.
The 10 Kentuckians who signed the petition to impeach Goforth are:
Mike VanWinkle, Berea
Carol VanWinkle, Berea