#MeTooLegislatureNewsWomen

State Rep. Faith Winter speaks out on effort to expel Lebsock

Author: Marianne Goodland - February 27, 2018 - Updated: February 28, 2018

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State Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and Assistant House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, talk with reporters on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in the Colorado Capitol in Denver about a complaint she made alleging that state Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, sexually harassed her. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)State Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and Assistant House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, talk with reporters on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in the Colorado Capitol in Denver about a complaint she made alleging that state Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, sexually harassed her. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Colorado state Rep. Faith Winter of Westminster, whose allegations against fellow Democrat Rep. Steve Lebsock helped launch a series of investigations at the state Capitol, Tuesday afternoon called on her fellow lawmakers to expel the Thornton Democrat.

The resolution to expel Lebsock was introduced late Tuesday afternoon. Among other things, it stated that “additional credible evidence” had come to light of a pattern of conduct by Lebsock, “including threats of retaliation,” that is contrary to the policy and work environment of the General Assembly.

The process must be allowed to finish, Winter told reporters.

“If we don’t move forward with this expulsion, we are sending a very dangerous message that when we put on this badge, that we are held above accountability and approach, and won’t be listening to victims,” she said.

Winter said she isn’t counting votes on an expulsion. It will take 44 votes to pass the resolution and expel Lebsock. There are 36 House Democrats, not including Lebsock, so the move to expel would take at least another eight votes from the Republican caucus.

“The women who came forward deserve our attention on this immediate matter as we consider the next steps,” Winter said.

She also agreed that at least some of the report should be made public.

“As public officials, we need to make sure this process becomes public in some way. If we have to answer to our constituents if all of it is kept behind closed doors?” she said.

Winter also responded to claims by Lebsock that her allegations are a way to boost her campaign for the state Senate. Winter is running against incumbent Republican Beth Martinez-Humenik for a Senate seat that could determine which party controls the state Senate next year.

“My whole goal in coming forward was to make sure this behavior stopped” and that women in the state Capitol felt safe and were heard.

“The last thing I was thinking about was being political,” she said, adding that the situation had taken a toll on her personally and professionally, as well as on her family.

“This isn’t for me,” she said. “It’s for the five of us …. It is uniquely our responsibility to decide what behavior is acceptable” in the state Capitol.

House Majority Leader KC Becker of Boulder said Tuesday that a resolution on Lebsock’s expulsion, which was introduced late Tuesday afternoon, would be voted on during Friday morning’s session. On Thursday, the House will hold a rare joint caucus that will present information on the process. After that, the two caucuses will hold their own meetings.

The resolution states that the investigation, conducted by the Employers Council, interviewed 19 victims and witnesses. The Council report “concluded that the complaints filed against Rep. Lebsock were credible and that the evidence support the specific allegations” made against him.

Lebsock’s conduct undermines public confidence in the Colorado House, the resolution states. The House “condemns and refuses to tolerate workplace harassment,” and, therefore, seeks a two-thirds vote of its members to expel Lebsock “as appropriate punishment for his pattern of egregious, harssing conduct and for just cause.”

The  Council investigation reviewed 11 allegations of sexual misconduct by Lebsock, filed by five women. Three have come forward publicly; the other two are unknown.

Winter pointed out that Lebsock asked for the process that played out some of its final chapters on Tuesday, and that he also asked for any women with complaints to formally file them. She also pledged to make a least a part of the report publicly available, although she said she had not yet seen it. She expects to receive a redacted copy of it.

In addition, lawmakers will be afforded an opportunity to review the report before Friday’s vote, although they are prohibited from making copies of it.

The Colorado Democratic Party weighed in Tuesday afternoon, stating that “any public official who engages in this sort of predatory behavior is unfit for public office and should resign.

In a statement, Party Chair Morgan Carroll, herself a former lawmaker, said that since the allegations against Lebsock and Sen. Randy Baumgardner were found credible, that should  “speed up” the resignations of both lawmakers. Carroll was subjected to a lewd comment from then-Sen. Shawn Mitchell, a Broomfield Republican, in a 2009 committee hearing. Mitchell told a nervous witness to visualize Carroll in her underwear in order to calm his nerves. He later apologized.

Democrats have rightly introduced legislation to expel both of these individuals from their respective chambers. We hope that Senate President Grantham will follow the example set by House Speaker Crisanta Duran to hold members of his own caucus accountable. He can start by formally introducing Sen. Aguilar’s resolution to expel Sen. Baumgardner.”

That resolution has not yet been introduced by Grantham and under the rules can be delayed until April 12.

“Sexual misconduct should not be a partisan issue. It is a problem that must be addressed in every walk of life,” Carroll said.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland