Originally published on June 30, 2018 11:06 am
Democrats are harshly criticizing state Senate President Kevin Grantham, saying he’s preventing lawmakers accused of sexual harassment from being held accountable. Grantham has countered by saying that sexual harassment is a “cancer” that must be rooted out and that any lawmaker convicted of a crime should be expelled. But that answer hasn't satisfied Democrats.
Grantham on March 6 wrote a letter asking Denver’s district attorney to investigate any sexual misconduct at the Capitol -- even if accusers decide not to come forward and file police reports.
“The wheels of justice do not stop spinning in these scenarios,” Grantham, a Republican, stated. “In fact, you have the authority to prosecute cases even over the objections of victims.”
But the DA’s office indicated that victims would need to come forward.
Others don’t believe allegations of sexual harassment at the Capitol need to be criminal to be acted upon. Some accusers maintain legislators have crossed the lines of professionalism and decency and some even feel threatened. Three independent investigations in the Senate have concluded that separate claims of sexual misconduct against three senators more likely than not happened. The senators – all Republicans – have denied wrongdoing, but their accusers do not believe the lawmakers have been held accountable for their actions.
Some accusers we have asked said they aren't seeking criminal convictions but rather actions such as apologies, censure, and in more extreme cases, punishment, such as removal from committee leadership or removal from office.
Last week, the latter happened in the House when members voted 52-9 to oust former Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock in the wake of an investigation that found allegations of sexual harassment against him credible.
Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, in her response to Grantham’s letter, indicated that the sexual harassment allegations he is concerned about appear to be more about the work environment and culture at the Capitol.
“The Colorado constitution gives to the General Assembly authority to establish rules governing the conduct of its members, to investigate allegations of misconduct by its members, and to take disciplinary action as deemed appropriate,” she wrote to Grantham on March 8. “That authority extends to adopting and enforcing sexual harassment and workplace policies adopted by the Senate and House, and to disciplining members for such conduct or for policy violations.”
Senate Democrats have drafted a resolution to expel one of the three accused senators -- Randy Baumgardner. The effort follows an independent investigation that found it more likely than not that he grabbed and slapped a legislative aide’s buttocks four times in 2016. Grantham has not allowed the measure to be introduced, frustrating Democrats.
“There has been a process that was a due process, that occurred, professional investigators, and they have continued to ignore that,” said Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman.
Grantham and Majority Leader Chris Holbert have said they were concerned “by the inaccuracies, bias, conflicts of interest, and inconsistencies we see in the report.”
A different firm is now investing two new pending complaints against Baumgardner.
The woman who filed the original complaint wishes to remain anonymous as the process allows. She said she believes the Senate’s inaction creates a chilling effect.
“I think Grantham’s putting up smoke screens intentionally meant to keep other people from talking,” she said.
Meanwhile, Democrats are pressuring Grantham for a vote on the resolution to expel Baumgardner and continue to ask for it each day on the Senate floor.
“We find it alarming that the president of the Colorado Senate would suggest that as long as you don’t commit crimes then you’ll be fine,” said Sen. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village. “These are the standards of conduct of a strip club. These are not the standards of conduct of the Senate.”
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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