New details from 2nd report on alleged Baumgardner harassment
Author: Marianne Goodland - April 24, 2018 - Updated: April 25, 2018
The second investigation into allegations against Colorado state Sen. Randy Baumgardner found he “engages in an unsettling pattern of inappropriate and offensive behavior toward women,” including sexual harassment toward a woman half his age that she called “creepy,” and created a hostile work environment for a non-partisan female Senate employee and other Senate staffers.
KUNC’s Bente Birkeland, who broke the story of the latest report Monday, posted that report, heavily redacted, on Tuesday. (Scroll down about 3/4 of the way to see the reports.)
The report contains the latest batch of allegations made against the Hot Sulphur Springs Republican, allegations that an investigative company called in by Senate leaders, Littleton Alternative Dispute Resolution, found credible.
Baumgardner was accused last year of inappropriate behavior with a legislative aide in the 2016 session. An investigation conducted by a membership employers’ association, the Employers Council, found those accusations credible, but the report was blasted for being biased, with errors and conflicts of interest by Senate President Kevin Grantham of Cañon City and Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert of Parker.
Baumgardner denied the allegations in the earlier report, but voluntarily stepped down from his role as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee and agreed to undergo sensitivity training.
Those allegations led Senate Democrats to seek an expulsion resolution, which was held up for 42 days by Grantham until being introduced and debated on the evening of April 2. The expulsion vote failed on a 17-17 tie, largely along party lines.
The full Senate did not have the second report at the time it voted on the resolution. Grantham called the second report “much more professional” on Monday.
The second report is dated March 30, 2018, the Friday before the April 2 expulsion vote. It is addressed to Effie Ameen, the secretary of the Senate.
The investigator in the second report, Kathryn Miller, said in regard to a complaint related to former aide Megen Creeden that Miller found Creeden’s allegations credible but that the incidents were isolated and did not create a hostile work environment for Creeden.
Miller reported she tried repeatedly — she cited 10 emails or voice messages — to schedule a sit-down interview with Baumgardner. That lack of cooperation creates its own problems, she wrote in a footnote.
“This [workplace harassment] policy makes it very difficult to complete an investigation. It gives the Accused control over the entire situation. While generally denying allegations, which Baumgardner did through his attorney on March 28 by email, he can denigrate the credibility of the investigation claiming he wasn’t even interviewed. ”
Baumgardner eventually did meet with Miller on April 11, the deadline for completing the investigation, according to Miller.
Creeden went public with her allegations last November. In the report, she described an encounter with Baumgardner during a 2016 hearing on a rain barrel bill. Baumgardner turned to another senator, whose name is redacted, and mentioned he’d met Creeden, the other senator’s aide, at the University Club a few days earlier.
Baumgardner “described his dismay that he had ‘left the event alone, walked home by himself, and lay in his bed alone.’ He trailed off and proceeded to make a loud audible suggestive sigh still looking at Creeden,” the report said.
Creeden’s recounting of the first encounter was corroborated by the unidentified senator, who said Baumgardner “made it sound like a ‘naughty dream.’ The senator also opined that if it was a joke, it was offensive and that Baumgardner “was clearly looking for Creeden’s reaction to the comment.”
A second incident took place a few weeks later when Baumgardner asked Creeden to come to his office for a whiskey. She had to repeatedly tell Baumgardner no, and told the investigator that “the whole conversation felt uncomfortable and creepy to her, stating it felt like she ‘needed to take a shower.'”
The unidentified senator also corroborated Creeden’s account of the second incident, and characterized Baumgardner as “a socially awkward flirt.” Miller said Baumgardner’s persistence “reflects his use of power to attempt to persuade her.”
In her March 30 conclusions, Miller said Baumgardner was given every opportunity to participate in the investigation and chose not to do so. “I have tried not to make negative inferences from his refusal to participate,” she wrote.
But the senator’s insistence on having an attorney present is “unnecessary and unreasonable,” given the limited role an attorney could play in the investigation. Miller explained the attorney would not be allowed to make comments, objections or otherwise interfere with the interview.
The report on a second complaint reviewed in the report is heavily redacted but indicates the male complainant is a current member of the non-partisan Senate staff.
The complainant observed Baumgardner making repeated visits to the Enrolling Room, located in an office outside of the Senate. According to the report, the only senator who visits that office is Baumgardner.
Baumgardner was at first friendly, the report said, but the complainant said Baumgardner began “inappropriately discussed legislation with the non-partisan staff, often making disparaging comments about his Senate colleagues and their bills.” Those kinds of conversations are off limits for non-partisan staff, the complainant explained.
Eventually, the senator’s visits, sometimes three a day, became a distraction and difficult to ignore.
Baumgardner seemed to focus his attention on one young female staffer. Baumgardner would bring food, uninvited, to this staffer as well as engage her in conversation, to the point that she became uncomfortable and questioned why he was focused on her. The female staffer also told the investigator and others at the time that Baumgardner showed up at her second job, located outside the Capitol.
The female staffer did not file a complaint and according to the report was not happy about being dragged into the investigation. She confirmed the complainant’s account, describing Baumgardner’s behavior as predatory and intimidating, that it made her uncomfortable and created for her a hostile work environment. Three other Senate staffers also confirmed the allegations.
A fourth member of the Senate staff, a woman, did not witness the alleged interactions in the Enrolling Room but told Miller that Baumgardner’s nickname is “Boob-grabber” and that she had been warned to steer clear of him.
Another witness, identified as a former Republican lawmaker, confirmed the nickname. Neither of the last two witnesses, however, ever observed Baumgardner committing that act.
Miller said she found the second set of allegations credible. “I find Baumgardner engages in an unsettling pattern of inappropriate and offensive behavior toward women,” consistent with the reputation described by the last two witnesses, she wrote.
Miller submitted a supplemental report on April 16 to Ameen that covered the April 11 interview with Baumgardner. According to the supplemental report, he did not recall ever having met Creeden and denied both the allegation from the rain barrel hearing as well as the invitation to come to his office for a drink.
However, as he was resigning from the transportation committee chairmanship in February, he offered an apology to Creeden, stating that “if I did anything at all offensive to you, or suggestive that you thought was offensive, I want to apologize to you ….”
Three witnesses spoke to Miller in Baumgardner’s defense: two partisan Senate staffers and Baumgardner’s legislative aide, Cheryl Palm. The two partisan staffers said they were treated professionally by Baumgardner and neither ever saw him drink, although one witness indicated she believes Baumgardner does drink.
Palm said Baumgardner “grew up in a southern environment and he is very respectful and friendly, as she believes southern culture expects.” Baumgardner is a native of Bedford, Indiana, about 75 miles south of Indianapolis.
Miller said the interview with Baumgardner and the other witnesses did not change her findings and called his credibility “significantly compromised.” While she found the testimony of the two Senate aides credible, she dismissed Palm’s testimony because it was based on conversations with Baumgardner about the allegations rather than on personal knowledge. That he is appropriate and professional with some employees does not change her findings about his behavior toward the victims, Miller explained.