Hot Sheet

Women’s group on harassment at #coleg: ‘The policy and the process are deeply flawed’

Author: Kara Mason - December 11, 2017 - Updated: December 11, 2017

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Colorado 50/50, a Fort Collins-based non-profit organization that focuses on putting more women in office, wants a complete overhaul of the Legislature’s workplace harassment policy, as multiple lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been at the center of sexual harassment allegations.

“The policy and the process are deeply flawed,” said organization founder Erin Hottenstein in a statement. “We are seeing problems at every step of the way from the initial reporting to the investigating to the decision-making.”

A news release from the organization said  the group researched the Legislature’s Joint Rule 38 and harassment policy. They also interviewed victims on experiences of filing formal complaints.

The group noted that what’s been reported might just be the tip of the iceberg.

“You shouldn’t need a bodyguard to work at the Capitol,” Hottenstein said. “The Legislature should be safe.”

Also of concern to the group is how little information is available to the public. Leaders in the House and the Senate haven’t been able to disclose even how many complaints they’ve received.

The Aurora Sentinel reported earlier this month that the publication sent two Colorado Open Records Act requests to the Capitol in search of a number but had no such luck in records or voluntary information from legislative leaders.

With little information, 50/50 said voters are essentially in the dark.

“The voters are ultimately responsible for taking action against poorly performing legislators. They cannot hold their elected officials accountable without this kind of information,” Hottenstein said. “Voters may even be unknowingly perpetuating sexual misconduct due to the secrecy currently in place.”

Next week, legislative leaders are meeting to discuss the possibility of hiring an independent consultant to review harassment policies.

“I hope that through this process and the input we will seek from a wide range of interested parties, we can make changes to our policies as needed to properly protect victims and handle issues of workplace harassment when they occur,” House Speaker Crisanta Duran told the Sentinel in a statement.

““There also should be safeguards to allow patterns of harassment to be clearly detected and handled appropriately.”

Kara Mason

Kara Mason

Kara Mason covers southern Colorado, Aurora and statewide issues for ColoradoPolitics.com. She also writes for the Aurora Sentinel.