Originally published on November 15, 2017 11:23 am
On Tuesday state Rep. Steve Lebsock went on the offensive regarding the sexual harassment allegations against him, claiming he was being blackmailed in an effort to force him to resign his House seat.
“This is a story about blackmail and coercion and extortion, is what this is,” he said.
Lebsock is running for state treasurer. He criticized House Speaker Crisanta Duran, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, all of whom have called for his resignation.
“It’s betrayal,” Lebsock said. “It’s not allowing a fellow Democrat to have due process.”
Last week, we reported that Lebsock sexually harassed 11 people, including another lawmaker: Rep. Faith Winter, a fellow Democrat. Since then, Winter has filed a formal complaint and two other women are considering formal complaints.
Talking to the media at the state Capitol, Lebsock called the allegations part of a “campaign” against him.
“It’s amazing that this is happening in my country, in our country,” he said, breaking into tears.
Lebsock also said he had received harassing phone calls and text messages from a San Francisco number. After talking to reporters, he said he was going to speak with the Colorado State Patrol about the incidents.
Winter said she noticed harassment of Lebsock on Facebook Monday night and called Legislative Legal Services to report it Tuesday morning.
“No one deserves to be bullied, even Rep Lebsock, even though he bullied me,” she said.
And Winter noted that she didn’t file a formal complaint until Monday because she believed Lebsock’s behavior had been addressed informally.
“After the harassment happened, I went to leadership.,” she said. “At that time I thought that further action wouldn’t be needed because it wouldn’t happen again.”
Lebsock deferred questions about whether he would continue his campaign to become state treasurer until a future news conference on Nov. 30.
House Speaker Duran criticized for handling of complaints
Meanwhile, Duran has come under fire for her response to the allegations against Lebsock.
Rep. Lois Landgraf, a Republican from Fountain, sent a letter (PDF) to Duran informing her of demands for an independent investigation of her office by the state’s attorney general.
“The fact that you placed a known harasser with multiple accusations against him in a position of power over us, lobbyists and interns shows an incredible lapse of judgment,” Landgraf wrote. “You put us all at great risk.”
“As Speaker of the House, I will continue to support the right of a victim to decide how they want these personal and sensitive situations to be handled," said Duran in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. "When I named Rep. Lebsock to the chairmanship, I believed that the situation had been resolved to the satisfaction of Rep. Winter. When these new allegations came to light last week, I took action to address them. I would not have appointed him chair knowing what I know today.”
Duran appointed Lebsock as the chair of the Local Government Committee. Following the allegations, he was temporarily removed from that position.
Winter expressed support for how Duran has handled the complaint.
“Speaker Duran has done everything correctly,” she said in a statement released on Twitter. “From when I first informed Speaker Duran about the incident to today when I informed her I would be filing a formal complaint she has been very supportive and has also followed all of the guidelines as outlined in our workplace harassment policy.”
This is why women don't come forward. Steve has accused me of "dirty politics" and now the other side is using this as a reason to attack the speaker. Shame on anyone that is using this for their political advantage. #copolitics— Faith Winter (@FaithKWinter) November 14, 2017
A version of this story ran in KUNC/KRCC's newscasts on November 14 and 15.
Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.
Copyright 2017 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.