Sexual harassment allegations against Rep. Steve Lebsock found credible; House Democrats move to expel him
Author: Marianne Goodland - February 27, 2018 - Updated: March 1, 2018
Colorado House Democrats began the process to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock Tuesday after House Majority Leader KC Becker of Boulder announced that allegations of sexual harassment filed against him have been found credible by a third-party investigator.
The report’s conclusions were announced before the full House Tuesday morning by Becker, who was put in charge of the Lebsock matter late last year and was the liaison with the Employers Council as it conducted the investigation.
A letter distributed to the House by Becker said that she has “reviewed the report and found the content…to be both serious and egregious in nature. Due to the seriousness of the findings, I am recommending that this body consider through a Resolution for Expulsion, that Rep. Lebsock be expelled from this body.” Becker said she would introduce that resolution later in the day.
A vote on expulsion is scheduled for Friday, according to the process Becker laid out. Thursday, the House will hold a rare joint caucus, and then break into respective caucuses to discuss the matter. Lebsock will be afforded time during the debate, should he seek it.
Becker told reporters at noon that there were actually five women who filed complaints, although two were never made public, and there were 11 separate allegations of misconduct against Lebsock. She said her decision to recommend expulsion was based not only on the report but Lebsock’s behavior since the allegations became public.
He has “demonstrated a pattern of behavior that not only violates policy but puts the integrity of this body at risk,” she said. “Our responsibility is to hold members to higher ethical standards than what Lebsock was demonstrating.”
She said he has had every chance possible to respond to the allegations, and that she has spoken to him several times about his concerns with the report and the process. She said Lebsock has not yet seen the report.
The embattled lawmaker told reporters after the announcement that he’s being “thrown under the bus” by his party, because Democrats are trying to tip Republicans’ one-seat majority in the Senate.
He accused Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, of lying against him. Winter is running for state Senate against Republican incumbent Beth Martinez Humenik in a swing seat that could make the difference in the statehouse balance of power.
Lebsock wouldn’t use the word conspiracy to explain why his party is trying to oust him, but he described his situation in those terms. He said Coloradans are “going to see how the two-party system has failed us and literally how I’m being framed for it.”
He said, “What the two parties do is they try to win at all cost, and it’s not about what’s right anymore. It’s about winning at all cost … They have to destroy me … I took a lie detector to prove [Winter] was lying, and after that she retracted some of her positions in her complaint.
“Her complaint is not credible.”
Rep. Matt Gray, a Broomfield Democrat, has readied a resolution on Lebsock’s expulsion. He told Colorado Politics that one question is whether the report, which is confidential, would be released to members of the House so they would be able to make an informed decision on the expulsion vote.
Becker answered that question, stating the General Assembly’s policy is to keep investigations of this type confidential. However, the policy also speaks to “providing information to relevant parties on a ‘need to know basis.’ Because I am asking you all to render a decision in this matter,” she wrote, members have that requisite “need to know” on the report’s details. A redacted version of the report will be made available to members for inspection. No copies will be made, she said.
A vote of expulsion requires two-thirds of the chamber, or 44 votes. It would take virtually all of the Democrats — 36, not including Lebsock — and eight Republicans. Initially, Republicans indicated they would not vote to expel, stating that is the purview of those who elected Lebsock. However, in recent days, sources have said that if the report was sufficiently abhorrent or outrageous, that there could be enough votes to expel.
House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock told Colorado Politics that he has seen the report, and what he read left him with more questions than before the investigation started. That included questions about process and conclusions, he said. rHe is encouraging his members “to look at the investigation and draw their own conclusions.”
“This is a major step we’re looking at doing,” he added.
Lebsock is finishing his third term in the House and is running for state treasurer.
On Nov. 10 KUNC’s Bente Birkeland broke the story that nine lawmakers, staffers and lobbyists had accused Lebsock of harassing or intimidating behavior or making unwanted sexual advances.
Lebsock initially apologized for his actions, but then retracted that apology and has remained defiant, refusing calls from Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, Gov. John Hickenlooper and others to resign.
Three formal complaints were filed against Lebsock, and a third-party group, the Employers Council, was hired to investigate those allegations along with others made against three Senate Republicans — Sens. Jack Tate of Centennial, Larry Crowder of Alamosa and Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs — and Democratic Rep. Paul Rosenthal of Denver.
The complaints that led to Tuesday’s actions included one from Winter, who told KUNC in November that Lebsock tried to get her to leave a bar with him after an end-of-session party in 2016.
Former legislative aide Cassie Tanner filed a complaint in January alleging Lebsock tried to unbutton her shirt at a Young Democrats’ event in 2015.
“I know what Rep. Lebsock did that night and so does he,” Tanner wrote in an email to Colorado Politics. “This was also not the only incident of inappropriate sexual remarks or behavior directed at me by Steve. In another instance at an event he made lewd remarks about my breasts and the dress I was wearing. He was visibly drunk and I extricated myself from the situation as quickly as possible.”
The third complaint was from lobbyist Holly Tarry, who alleged Lebsock made several unwanted sexual advances between 2013 and 2016.
Lebsock paid for and took a lie detector test in December that he claimed proved his innocence, although the questions addressed only the allegations made by Winter, not the other eight women. He also filed a defamation lawsuit against Winter.