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Senate Democrats call Baumgardner punishment a slap on the wrist

Author: Marianne Goodland - May 3, 2018 - Updated: May 3, 2018

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Baumgardner punishmentColorado State Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs. (File photo by David Zalubowski, The Associated Press)

Senate President Kevin Grantham of Cañon City has removed Republican Sen. Randy Baumgardner from four committees as punishment for allegations that he sexually harassed a nonpartisan Senate staffer and created a hostile work environment for other Senate staffers.

But a statement by Grantham that implied he had the cooperation of Senate Minority Leader Leroy Garcia of Pueblo in his actions against Baumgardner was disputed Thursday by Garcia, who told Colorado Politics he was told, not asked, about what should be done.

Grantham’s decision comes in the wake of a pair of reports, made public on April 23, that covered an investigation conducted by Littleton Alternative Dispute Resolution into various allegations of misbehavior by Baumgardner. The Republican from  Hot Sulphur Springs has denied the allegations.

Grantham’s decision, described in a letter he wrote to the executive director of the Legislative Council, was first reported Thursday by KUNC’s Bente Birkeland. Grantham himself has not publicly released the letter or disclosed the nature of the punishments imposed on Baumgardner, although he told reporters Monday he would disclose any actions regarding the senator.

Grantham stripped the Hot Sulphur Springs lawmaker of positions on four committees that will meet during the summer. Baumgardner also was replaced as vice-chair of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee. He still holds a seat on that committee as well as one on the transportation committee.

After an earlier report from the Employers Council found credible allegations he had slapped the buttocks of a legislative aide, Baumgardner voluntarily resigned as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.

On April 2, the senator survived a vote by the Senate on a resolution to expel him. The 17-17 vote was largely along party lines and was not expected to pass.

However, the vote was taken before the more recent reports from Littleton Alternative Dispute Resolution became public, although the Secretary of the Senate, Effie Ameen, had received the reports that day. Grantham and Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert both denied they’d seen the latest reports before the expulsion vote.

Baumgardner is one of two prime Senate sponsors of the chamber’s top priority bill — Senate Bill 1 — that currently devotes $495 million over two years for transportation funding. But in recent weeks, the public Senate Republican faces of SB 1 has been Sen. John Cooke of Greeley, who met with reporters Monday to talk about the bill, and Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik of Thornton.

In that same Monday press conference, Grantham pledged to make his decision about Baumgardner public, which he has not yet done.

The four committees Baumgardner was removed from are Capital Development (which he chaired), and interim committees on water, wildfires and transportation.

With Baumgardner now off those four committees — particularly the Capital Development Committee, which is a year-round permanent committee — Baumgardner has little, if any, reason to be at the state Capitol once the General Assembly adjourns on May 9 and until it reconvenes next January.

Grantham has said he will not ask Baumgardner to resign.

In a statement issued Thursday, Grantham said, “It’s never pleasant meting out punishments of this sort to colleagues, but the three of us who were tasked with making this decision are comfortable that it was justified in this case. Minority Leader Leroy Garcia’s participation in the process was of great help in bringing this matter to a speedy conclusion, so I want to extend a special thank you to him.”

Garcia, however, said he was told, rather than asked about what should happen.

In a statement to Colorado Politics, spokesman Mansur Gidfar said Garcia’s “‘participation’ entailed being told what Republicans had already decided they were going to do. To suggest that Sen. Garcia thinks this punishment is adequate is false. Our entire caucus has said from the beginning that Sen. Baumgardner must resign. Nothing about today’s decision changes that.”

This is exactly why now-assistant minority leader Sen. Lucia Guzman of Denver withdrew herself from the disciplinary process when she was still minority leader, Gidfar’s statement continued. “Republican leadership is exploiting our good-faith effort to re-engage in the disciplinary process in an attempt to lend bipartisan credibility to their pathological inability to hold Sen. Baumgardner accountable.”

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.