Rep. John Moore, R-Brandon

Rep. John Moore, R-Brandon, a 22-year veteran of the Mississippi House of Representatives, resigned late Friday following multiple allegations of sexual harassment.

House Speaker Philip Gunn confirmed the allegations to Mississippi Today first but could not state whether this led to Moore’s resignation. He did say that after hearing the allegations, his office consulted with outside counsel, which recommended an investigation and that the investigation was imminent.

Gunn said he met with Moore more than once and informed him of the allegations. Moore’s resignation from the House means an inquiry is no longer necessary, according to Gunn.

“We take any such allegations very seriously. We have followed protocol every step of the way and made sure that we have sought advice of counsel and followed that advice to the letter,” Gunn said Monday morning.

Once a House member resigns, the speaker’s office is technically unable to investigate any complaints about the member.

In the announcement Friday night, Moore said he was resigning because of health reasons. Moore underwent heart bypass surgery last year and missed part of the legislative session while recovering. When reached on Monday morning he said he had no knowledge of any sexual harassment allegations.

“Lord have mercy. Well, that’s interesting. I have no idea what he’s talking about. Maybe I ought to talk to the speaker,” Moore said.

Gunn declined to verify the number of women who made allegations or provide details of where and when the incidents occurred. But he said that maintaining the privacy of the women accusing Moore has been “preeminent” for him.

Speaker of the Mississippi House Philip Gunn
House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton

“We’re very sensitive to the privacy of the ones who’ve come forward,” Gunn said. “And I admire the courage of the women who came forward.”

Moore is the first Mississippi lawmaker in recent history to resign following accusations of sexual harassment, and Gunn said handling claims of sexual harassment is new territory for his office.

But nationally these types of accusations — and the ensuing resignation of public officials — are becoming part of the political landscape in Washington, D.C., and state capitals.

Last week, three members of the U.S. Congress resigned in three days. Each of the men — Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., had been dogged by accusations of sexual harassment.

In October, The New York Times published multiple allegations of sexual assault against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, leading to thousands of men and women publicly speaking out about their own experiences with sexual harassment. On social media, these stories have been labeled with the hashtag #metoo. Several of these allegations have centered on public figures and elected officials.

As a response to these allegations, in November, Rep. Jackie Speier, R-Calif., introduced legislation to the U.S. House that would overhaul the system for filing and settling harassment claims from congressional employees. The so-called #Metoo legislation follows numerous allegations against both public figures and elected officials that have been made public in recent months.

John Moore, the former chair of the House Education committee, also served on the House committees on Appropriations, Insurance, Judiciary B, Legislative Budget, Rules and Transportation. The sudden announcement of Moore’s resignation, late Friday afternoon, attributed his resignation solely to ongoing health concerns.

“Earlier this year I had a major health issue that caused me to rethink my ability to continue serving the people of Mississippi in this important position,” Moore in the release last week.

The 2018 legislative session begins Jan. 2. Gov. Phil Bryant will determine when a special election for House District 60 will be held, and Speaker Gunn will appoint a new chairman of the influential Education Committee.

Contributing: Adam Ganucheau

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Larrison Campbell is a Greenville native who reports on politics with an emphasis on public health. She received a bachelor’s from Wesleyan University and a master’s from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.Larrison is a 2018 National Press Foundation fellow in public health, a 2019 Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts fellow in health care reporting and a 2019 Center for Health Journalism National Fellow.