sexual harassment

More than 100 Senate staff, aides and interns have been warned against speaking to journalists about workplace issues, including sexual harassment, and the trainings aimed at preventing it.

At issue are two emails obtained from Senate sources that say it is a violation of the chamber's policies for workers to grant interviews to reporters. A third email, sent directly to us by the top Senate administrator, asked us to tell members of other news organizations not to approach aides and interns for interviews, but rather to speak with communications secretaries. We didn't act on that request because it's not our role to direct the reporting of other news organizations. 

Democrats are harshly criticizing state Senate President Kevin Grantham, saying he’s preventing lawmakers accused of sexual harassment from being held accountable. Grantham has countered by saying that sexual harassment is a “cancer” that must be rooted out and that any lawmaker convicted of a crime should be expelled. But that answer hasn't satisfied Democrats.

The leader of Colorado’s Senate said that last week’s historic decision in the House to expel a legislator amid sexual harassment allegations would have no bearing on how similar cases in the Senate are resolved. Senate President Kevin Grantham said the House made a tough decision to remove a fellow legislator from the Capitol.

Ken Lund / Flickr

It was a dramatic and at times tearful day at Colorado’s Capitol as member after member of the House made statements for and against the removal of a fellow legislator. In the end, the chamber voted 52-9 to oust Rep. Steve Lebsock, who had been accused by five women of sexual harassment and retaliation. Those allegations were “more likely than not” to have occurred, an investigation concluded early this week.

Tensions were high at Colorado's Capitol Thursday as Democrats and Republicans discussed whether to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock, who has staunchly denied allegations of sexual harassment.

The independent Employers Council, which has been tasked with investigating several state lawmakers accused of sexual harassment, is defending its work. The lawmakers -- accused of misconduct by colleagues, Capitol workers, interns and aides -- have criticized the council’s efforts to get to the bottom of allegations. Some have even raised the question of bias. Amid this, and efforts to oust a lawmaker over allegations, two investigations in the Senate are now being handled by a new firm that declined to comment on its methods.

(Updated at 4:47 p.m.) Saying a report has confirmed multiple allegations of sexual harassment, Democrats in Colorado’s House of Representatives have moved to expel one of their own -- Rep. Steve Lebsock. It is an unprecedented move as Senate Republicans who have faced confirmed reports of sexual harassment at the Capitol continue to serve.

A complaint alleging that Sen. Jack Tate harassed a woman at the state Capitol has been found credible. The woman, a former intern, alleged that Tate flirted with her and touched her in an elevator in an unwelcome manner during the 2017 legislative session. The former intern was 18 years old at the time, and has asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. 

Sen. Randy Baumgardner said he will no longer serve as chairman of a powerful committee in the wake of formal complaints of sexual harassment. He said he volunteered to do so in a conversation with Senate President Kevin Grantham to help put a controversy behind him that has been simmering since November.   

“This is painful for me to do so in many ways because I’ve worked on these issues for years," Baumgardner said, as he announced he would no longer lead the Transportation Committee. "I think it’s probably one of the best things I can do."

Sen. Randy Baumgardner is now facing a second formal sexual harassment complaint at the Colorado Capitol. Megan Creeden, who served as an intern for another lawmaker, said she filed the complaint "hoping it will trigger something to happen."

An earlier investigation into allegations against the Republican from Hot Sulphur Springs concluded that “it appears more likely than not that Baumgardner grabbed and slapped a legislative aide’s buttocks four times during the 2016 legislative session.” 

Colorado Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman said she does not want to be involved in any process that would determine potential disciplinary actions against Sen. Randy Baumgardner for sexual harassment. This follows a public effort by her fellow Democrats who urged in a letter that she be a part of that process.

Kevin Grantham, the president of Colorado's Senate, refused to say whether he would make any punishment stemming from a sexual harassment investigation -- public. He was asked Monday (Feb. 5, 2018) during a weekly media briefing with Capitol reporters whether he would commit to telling Coloradans any disciplinary action Sen. Randy Baumgardner would face. Baumgardner is the subject of a formal sexual harassment complaint.

“I can’t say one way or the other on that," Grantham said.

Last week, we broke the story that the complaint was considered credible by the independent group that spent two months investigating it. Leadership in the Senate will determine any disciplinary action, it could range from doing nothing, to a private apology or more training, to expulsion from the chamber. Expulsion requires a full vote of the sitting members of the chamber.

State Senate leaders are in a position to decide whether to impose some kind of punishment against Sen. Randy Baumgardner.

The Hot Sulphur Springs Republican is facing a formal complaint of sexual harassment -- a complaint a key source tells us has been validated.

The woman who filed a sexual harassment complaint against Sen. Randy Baumgardner at Colorado's Capitol said her allegations are considered credible by those tasked with investigating them. An outside company, the Employers Council, investigated the allegations on behalf of legislative leaders.

The woman said she learned of the results of the investigation from a Senate staffer on Tuesday (Jan. 30, 2018). The woman said the staffer told her “the evidence suggests there should be a consequence."

It’s been two months since sexual harassment complaints were filed against several legislators at Colorado’s Capitol. They came mostly in November, during the off-session, when the hallways were quiet.

Now, the building is bustling as lawmakers, lobbyists, aides, staffers and others getting back to work. Committees are debating bills on subjects ranging from transportation to health care.

But still looming in the background are the formal complaints of sexual harassment.

Legislative leaders have selected the Investigations Law Group to offer recommendations on how to change the General Assembly’s workplace harassment policy. 

Investigations Law Group was one of two finalists after the initial list was narrowed. The leaders were split 3-3 along party lines earlier in the week, but came to an agreement on Wednesday, where they voted 4-2.

Five women are accusing Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton of retaliating against them because they went public with allegations of sexual harassment or intimidating behavior by him. They take issue with a 28-page defense that Lebsock delivered to the mailboxes of his fellow House members just before the legislative session began.

The document has ignited anger among some and is the latest chapter in a series of counter-claims by the Democrat who in the  coming weeks faces the possibility of a vote to oust him from the legislature. 

Colorado lawmakers returned to the Capitol to begin work on a number of issues such as how to improve the state’s roadways. But amid the usual pomp and circumstance and speeches that usher in the four-month 2018 session, the cloud of sexual harassment allegations loomed large.

The Capitol is set to hire an independent human resources person in the wake of numerous harassment allegations. It’s not yet clear what role the new HR person would play, but it may take any formal complaints or investigations out of the hands of legislative leadership.

Steve Lebsock, the state representative accused of sexual misconduct, has again gone on the offensive, this time to say that he's taken a lie detector test that clears him of any wrongdoing. A fellow Democrat, Rep. Faith Winter, is among two women to file formal complaints alleging sexual harassment against Lebsock, who is also campaigning to be Colorado's next treasurer. Lebsock has repeatedly said he deserves the chance to face his accuser and took the test because he said the complaint process is progressing too slowly.

“After waiting 26 days waiting to hear from the fact finder, I decided to get my story out,” said Lebsock at a press conference he arranged near his office across the street from the Capitol Thursday. “All of the allegations are false and I am willing to do a polygraph on all the false allegations.”

Three lawmakers face formal complaints at the state Capitol alleging sexual harassment. We went to the districts these lawmakers represent to see what their constituents think about the situation. The overall message: sexual harassment shouldn’t be tolerated and there should be consequences should the allegations be proven true.

Kathy Ochsner is a 73-year-old retired secretary who lives in Centennial, south of Denver.

“I think we need to send the message that this is not OK,” she said. “This is not part of the workplace.”

There’s the allegation of a lawmaker who suggested sexual acts and tried to force a colleague to go home with him. Another allegedly grabbed and slapped an aide’s buttocks as she walked in the Capitol. Another claim: A senator would regularly leer, comment on an intern’s clothes and linger, touching her shoulder.

So far, our reporting has prompted four women to file formal sexual harassment complaints against three lawmakers at the state legislature. Just two of those women – Rep. Faith Winter and former lobbyist Holly Tarry – have gone public, willing to be named in their claims against Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat running for state treasurer. Lebsock has denied any wrongdoing. He has refused calls to resign by top leaders in his own party.