Updated: Rep. Paul Rosenthal cleared on sexual harassment charge

Author: Joey Bunch - January 4, 2018 - Updated: January 5, 2018

Paul RosenthalRep. Paul Rosenthal (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

(Updated: This story was updated to included remarks from Rosenthal accuser Thomas Cavaness.)

Colorado Rep. Paul Rosenthal is apparently in the clear over a sexual harassment complaint filed in November.

The accusation that he touched another man at a party in 2012, if true., happened before he was a legislator. He was elected later than year and sworn-in in December 2013.

Rosenthal, a Democrat from Denver, is one of four legislators who had complaints filed against them.

“I have been advised by Speaker Duran that the allegations made against me do not fall within the scope of the General Assembly’s workplace harassment policy and, therefore, she has dismissed the complaints,” Rosenthal said in a statement to Colorado Politics Thursday morning. The news was first reported by John Frank of the Denver Post.

“These matters are officially closed. As I’ve maintained all along, I am innocent of any wrongdoing. I’m incredibly appreciative of the support I’ve received from the community, and I look forward to a productive and successful 2018 legislative session serving the people of Colorado.”

Besides Rosenthal, Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat from Thornton, is under investigation, as well as two Senate Republicans — Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs and Jack Tate of Centennial.

In November, Rosenthal said his accuser, Democratic organizer Thomas Cavaness was lying. Both men are gay.

Cavaness disputes that Rosenthal has been vindicated, saying Duran’s ruling was not proof of innocence and is the result of flawed system and an inappropriately narrow investigation that ignored two other unofficial complaints against Rosenthal.

It doesn’t matter that he wasn’t serving in the legislature at the time of the alleged harassment against him, Cavanass said..

“Elected officials should be held to a higher standard and it shouldn’t matter if they’re on the clock, off the clock or whatnot, the need to be held above reproach,” he said.

He said the incident in the Colorado statehouse should be handled the way U.S. Sen. Al Franken’s was handled: fellow Democratic senators called for Franken to resign, and he did.

While Rosenthal faces no further repercussions from the House investigation, Cavaness said Rosenthal’s actions could be the cause of better rules in the legislature and the state party, as well as held accountable by voters in November.

“I think there are many ways in which this could go forward,” Cavaness said.

Duran issued a statement Thursday afternoon on the legislature’s workplace harassment policies.

“My role in handling workplace harassment complaints limits me from acknowledging or commenting on specific cases – but I can comment on the overall process to date,” she said.

“To address even the perception that politics play a role in this process, I have directed any formal complaints to an independent outside party for review and investigation. I will continue to follow their guidance on what does – and does not – fall under our policies. Nov. 20 I recused myself and delegated the investigations of Rep. Lebsock to Majority Leader Becker. I felt that was the appropriate course of action given my role in helping to handle the situation with Rep. Lebsock in May 2016.

“Since allegations in this and other cases came to light late last year, I have said repeatedly that our existing workplace harassment policies are inadequate and, with the other leaders of the legislature, we have taken steps to begin to improve them.”

The process is confidential, and even top lawmakers, such as Senate President Kevin Grantham and Senate Democratic Leader Lucia Guzman, said they don’t know how or when the investigations will play out individually.

In December a legislative committee voted to turn over such complaints to outside professionals.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.