Originally published on June 30, 2018 11:04 am
(Updated at 4:47 p.m.) Saying a report has confirmed multiple allegations of sexual harassment, Democrats in Colorado’s House of Representatives have moved to expel one of their own -- Rep. Steve Lebsock. It is an unprecedented move as Senate Republicans who have faced confirmed reports of sexual harassment at the Capitol continue to serve.
An outside investigator found credible eleven allegations from five women against Lebsock, who is also running for state treasurer, including one from Rep. Faith Winter, also a Democrat.
“Five brave people came forward to share their experiences about harassment, and now the whole state of Colorado knows the truth,” said Winter. “It is important to stand up to bullies and not be silenced.
Lebsock has adamantly denied the allegations against him since last November. That’s when we first broke the story of his accusers, including Winter and Holly Tarry, a former lobbyist. Both complained to legislative leaders that Lebsock propositioned them and acted inappropriately using vulgar language.
Lebsock issued a 28-page letter to House members in his defense and a YouTube video. He also took a lie detector test, which he said proved his innocence.
The House, controlled by Democrats, convened an unexpected meeting Tuesday (Feb. 27, 2018) to state the results of the investigation into Lebsock's conduct.
House Majority Leader KC Becker said: "They are very serious allegations and that we really have a responsibility to the body as a whole to this institution to the integrity of what we do here to really hold ourselves to a higher standard."
Afterwards, Lebsock said: "I’m not guilty. I’ve done nothing wrong. I have never sexually harassed anyone."
A House vote to expel Lebsock is expected to take place on Friday (March 2, 2018) and requires two thirds of the chamber to back it. The last time such a vote took place was more than a century ago. Passing the resolution will require all Democrats, minus Lebsock, to vote as a bloc and backing from at least eight House Republicans.
“I will not be expelled," Lebsock said. "The members of this body will see what’s going on and I will not be expelled.”
One of Lebsock’s accusers was glad to see the House take up the issue of sexual harassment so publicly – a contrast to how leaders in the state Senate have at times handled allegations against three state senators.
“I never doubted that once the investigation was complete that me and all the other women Lebsock has mistreated would be vindicated because the truth always wins in the end,” said former legislative aide Cassie Tanner.
In November 2017, Tanner publicly accused Lebsock of unbuttoning her shirt at an annual legislative event. She then filed a formal complaint.
“Now I hope the House will act to remove him from office and restore dignity to their chamber," she said.
But others, including Lebsock, questioned the investigation conducted by Employers Council, as members of the Senate have done following findings confirming sexual misconduct allegations there.
“There’s been a lot of bias, an un-professionalism, from the fact finder in my case," Lebsock said.
Another lawmaker with questions is House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, a Republican. After reading the full report on Lebsock, he raised concerns.
“There are several things in the report, process, fact finding, and conclusions that I have questions on and I would like to talk to the investigator and I think my caucus would too," he said. “There’s some in there that I wouldn’t consider harassment -- not even close. There’s others that are more serious and the investigation isn’t so clear on those more serious ones that I think we need to take a deep look on.”
He said he would consider all the evidence carefully before a vote to oust Lebsock: "I think we have to be very thoughtful about all the items involved and the repercussions before we take such a step.”
There have been calls to oust another lawmaker -- Sen. Randy Baumgardner -- following an official report that says it's more likely than not that allegations of sexual harassment against him happened. Baumgardner, a Republican, stepped down from one of the two committees he chairs in the wake of that report but also called it flawed, as did Senate President Kevin Grantham, also a Republican. In response, Senate Democrats said Baumgardner should be removed from the chamber and have written a resolution to do so.
Read more: Majority Leader KC Becker's letter (PDF format) to members of the House announcing the findings of the sexual harassment investigation of Rep. Steve Lebsock and her decision to introduce a resolution to expel him.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story will be updated throughout the day as reactions come in.
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.
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