An attorney for one of the alleged victims of sexual misconduct by a state legislator said hiring an outside "gatekeeper" who would handle all workplace and sexual harassment complaints in the state Capitol is not enough.
Formal complaints are currently filed with House or Senate leadership, and though the process ensures confidentiality, some have said concerns about pushback have made them stay silent.
“We have a current reporting system and we have a zero-tolerance policy for such things,” Senate President Kevin Grantham said when complaints first surfaced in November, “but we’re going to have someone come in and see where the holes are, where we can fill the gaps, review and possibly overhaul the way we do things to make it a better system.”
That review will look at best practices, including record keeping, protections against retribution, online reporting, and safeguards to allow patterns of harassment to be detected and handled appropriately.
“This is about working together to address what clearly is a problem,” House Speaker Crisanta Duran said. “I am glad that all four caucuses have agreed to set up a comprehensive review of our harassment policies, and I hope that through this process we can create a welcoming and respectful workplace for everyone.”
The Executive Committee of the Legislative Council includes Grantham, Duran, Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, House Majority Leader KC Becker, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville.
According to the agenda, the committee will consider hiring a human resources professional. It will also review review the legislature’s existing workplace harassment policy and discuss whether more workplace harassment training is needed for lawmakers and legislative staff.
Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, set off a firestorm when she filed a formal complaint against Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, with Duran’s office alleging Lebsock made sexually crude remarks to her at a gathering at a bar at the end of the 2016 legislative session. KUNC’s Bente Birkland reported that former lobbyist Holly Tarry and former legislative aide Cassie Tanner also accuse Lebsock of behaving inappropriately.
Reps. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, Randy Baumgardner, R-Breckenridge, and Jack Tate, R-Centennial, have also been accused of sexual harassment.
Rep. Steve Lebsock should not resign based on allegations. If he were to be found guilty after an independent investigation, he should most definitely resign.
I worked for Rep. Lebsock from December 2014 until November 2017. My resignation had nothing to do with the allegations made against him. During the time I worked for him, I never witnessed him do anything sexually inappropriate.
House and Senate leadership will meet to review of how workplace harassment issues are handled in the General Assembly, according to a Tuesday press release. The meeting is in direct response to allegations of workplace harassment involving four Colorado legislators.
The Executive Committee of the Legislative Council is hiring an independent consultant to review the legislature’s existing procedures regarding workplace harassment and issue recommendations to the legislature, as well as to determine the review’s scope and timeline.
The review will research the matter and seek input from those involved, and will then hold a hearing on the recommendations and proposed rule changes.
The review will also look at:
· A best-practices survey of workplace harassment policies in other states and the private sector.
· Whether an independent body or other neutral third-party organization should be established to handle workplace harassment complaints, and potential models to consider.
· Suitable methods for reporting complaints, including online reporting options.
· How confidentiality should be handled in workplace harassment or sexual harassment complaints.
· Suitable remedies for complaints of workplace harassment.
· Record keeping.
· Protections against retribution.
· Proper safeguards to allow patterns of harassment to be clearly detected and handled appropriately.
· Best practices for awareness and training on what constitutes workplace harassment and the procedure for filing a complaint under the policy.
Research and input will be gathered from a wide range of sources, including the Office of Legislative Legal Services, Legislative Council, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the state Department of Personnel and Administration, the state attorney general’s office, human resources and employment law experts, victims’ advocacy groups, legislators, employees and others who do business at the legislature.
Legislative leaders have agreed to discuss formalizing proposals for workplace harassment training to be conducted annually for all legislators and staff and to be expanded to offer the most comprehensive training available. Currently, workplace harassment training is held every two years and is mandatory for all legislators and all new staffers.
The Executive Committee of the Legislative Council includes Senate President Kevin Grantham, House Speaker Crisanta Duran, Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, House Majority Leader KC Becker, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville. The date and time of the Executive Committee meeting will be announced as soon as it is confirmed.
Four state lawmakers face allegations of sexual harassment: Rep. Steve Lebsock, Rep. Paul Rosenthal, Sen. Randy Baumgardner and Sen. Jack Tate. All of them have denied any wrongdoing.
House Speaker Crisanta Duran issued a statement saying, “This is not a partisan issue; this is about working together to address what clearly is a problem.
“I am glad that all four caucuses have agreed to set up a comprehensive review of our harassment policies, and I hope that through this process we can create a welcoming and respectful workplace for everyone.”
The national wave of allegations of sexual misconduct that began in Hollywood spread to the Colorado legislature Friday, as a Democratic lawmaker was accused of sexual harassment by one of his colleagues.
If the Aurora Sentinel editorial board gets what it wants, all five of the Aurora City Council seats up for grabs will be filled with new, and mostly progressive, candidates. The newspaper endorsed all three of the candidates groomed by Emerge Colorado, the organization that prepares women Democrats to run for office.
Allison Hiltz, Nicole Johnston and Crystal Murillo caught the attention of many this year including the Sentinel’s, which wrote a piece highlighting the oddity in A-town politics.
The council is typically a mainstay for conservatives, despite races being nonpartisan. But Emerge Colorado delivered three alumnas to the election this year.
And so the tide may be turning. The Sentinel endorsement says:
“The new wave of city and school board candidates are arguably much more progressive than the have been previously, offering a distinct and contrasting change from past local elections. These two slates of candidates have pulled incumbent conservatives to the left, as well, something reflected in their newer positions on some past conservative touchstones.”
The weekly newspaper also endorsed Martha Lugo, a self-proclaimed progressive, and Tom Tobiassen, former chairman of the Regional Transportation District board.
In the Ward I race, the Sentinel chose Murillo, a 23-year-old University of Denver graduate who previously interned with House Speaker Crisanta Duran, over incumbent Sally Mounier for being, “consistent in showing she has the temerity, the experience and the wisdom to be steadfast in her demand that Aurora serve and protect all residents in her ward and the city, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or their documentation.”
Over in Ward II, the Sentinel endorsed Johnston over four other candidates, including former State Sen. Bob Hagedorn, but added that there really wasn’t a bad choice in the whole race.
Lugo picked up the Ward III endorsement over incumbent Marsha Berzins and three others. Hiltz, who at one point also interned for Duran, and Tobiassen picked up the at-large endorsements.
With 20 candidates, five seats and two incumbents in the race, one thing is for sure, writes the Sentinel:
“Change is guaranteed to come to Aurora as a new generation of Aurora City Council and Aurora Public Schools board candidates usher in new ideas and a drive to bring substantive progress.”
Ideas inspire both philosophers and legislators, but the two jobs differ considerably thereafter.
That distinction is critical to understanding the current dust-up between the Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara and several Republican lawmakers.
A thoughtful, assertive voice for liberty, Caldara is a friend and an ally. He and the Institute advocate tirelessly for personal freedom and limited government – principles that are as dear to me now as they were when I served in the Colorado Senate.
Caldara’s job is to turn up the heat on lawmakers when they are being cajoled to compromise. His job is not, however, to consider those same lawmakers’ prospects for re-election or to balance the competing interests that lawmakers face back home.
So, when Caldara calls for the Republican Party to purge lawmakers who, in his view, don’t sufficiently toe the line, it’s time for all of us to take a deep breath and assess the realities that lawmakers must face – or ignore at their own peril.
Legislators have a responsibility to the people they represent. They are responsible for governing, particularly when their party is empowered with a majority.
In Colorado, Republicans hold a one-vote majority in the state Senate. Democrats hold a nine-vote margin in the state House, and they’ve held the Governor’s Mansion for more than a decade.
The reality is that Republicans cannot pass legislation without some cooperation from Democrats – and vice versa.
Two such bipartisan bills considered by the Legislature earlier this year draw Caldara’s ire because they represented compromise on existing taxpayer protections.
House Bill 1242, sponsored by Senate President Kevin Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran, proposed to ask voters for a sales tax increase to boost transportation funding, which has flat-lined for the past 17 years.
Grantham is a straight shooter. He didn’t break any arms, buy any votes or employ dirty tricks. He asked his caucus to give the bill a fair hearing, and ultimately, it died in a Senate committee.
Senate Bill 267 – which became law – moved the controversial Hospital Provider Fee (HPF) outside the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) spending limit, allowing government spending to increase. On the other hand, it lowered the TABOR spending cap by $200 million.
Caldara skewers Sens. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) and Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs), along with Reps. Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan) and Polly Lawrence (R-Castle Rock), for advancing the bill.
If Republicans had their way, the spending cap would have been reduced by more than $500 million. Conversely, Democrats wouldn’t have reduced the cap whatsoever, except that they had to placate Republicans.
Important to rural lawmakers, the bill threw a lifeline to several smalltown hospitals that were faced with shutdown. That may not mean much to residents of the Front Range where hospitals are ubiquitous. However, closing the only hospital in an entire county is the difference between life and death for some victims of severe accidents or acute illness. Worse still, a community that loses its hospital faces a bleak future, with closure of businesses and schools looming.
Sonnenberg and Becker cut the best deal they could to protect the interests of the rural communities they represent and to prevent taxpayers from being fleeced.
With perfect hindsight, let’s compare this compromise to a missed opportunity several years ago when Republicans considered a bill expanding rights for gays and lesbians while protecting freedom of conscience of individuals and organizations whose faith holds that marriage is the domain of opposite-sex couples.
Republicans killed that bill and, in the next election, lost their majority in the state House. The next year, Democrats passed the same bill minus protections for religious liberty.
Like it or not, progress in a split legislature involves give-and-take. That doesn’t sell well in a white paper, but it’s the reality that our lawmakers must confront. After all, what good is a pristine voting record if you’ve done nothing to make life better for the people who elected you
Plugged-in Pols notes the HD 24 seat leans Democratic but is not airtight, so it helps Duran to have lined up some key supporters from the get-go:
Danielson’s seat is a little more comfortable for Democrats to hold than other swing Jeffco legislative districts, but Republicans reliably field a challenger so the district does get some attention every election. With both House Speaker Crisanta Duran and the incumbent representative closing ranks behind Monica Duran, we expect she’ll win the nomination without much fuss — helping keep this open seat off the GOP’s opportune target list.