State Senator Faith Winter accused of being intoxicated at work in ethics complaint from Northglenn City Council

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Democratic state Sen. Faith Winter at the Capitol, March 1, 2023.

The city of Northglenn voted 9-0 on Wednesday to send an ethics complaint to the Colorado legislature alleging that Democratic state Sen. Faith Winter appeared to be intoxicated during a public community meeting in Northglenn last month. The city council said Winter failed to “uphold her office with integrity.”

Council member Megan Burns expressed personal empathy for Winter, who announced in April that she was entering treatment for alcohol use disorder. Still, Burns said, state lawmakers are supposed to hold themselves to a higher standard and must be held accountable for their actions.

“How can we know that she's making the best decisions for us while she's suffering from this disease and not seeking help and not getting the help that she needs?” asked Burns. “To me, that's a failure of duties and that is caused for termination for any other person who is working.”

Winter was working at the state Capitol during the Northglenn City Council’s deliberation, but she submitted a written letter asking for empathy. She has publicly apologized for what happened and stepped down as the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.

“I know the way I showed up at the community meeting was inappropriate and hard for those in attendance,” said Winter. “That night led me to seek treatment for substance abuse disorder, which was difficult, especially with the eyes of the world watching, but I’m glad I did.”

Winter has since returned to work at the state Capitol for the final part of the legislative session, which ends May 8. She urged the city council to “lift up those in our community who are going through hard times, not tear them down,” and said she hoped to reduce the stigma for those seeking treatment. 

Other city council members, including Mayor Pro Tem Shannon Lukeman-Hiromasa, said they didn’t feel comfortable that Winter was already back at work.

“To me that is not entering into a serious recovery program. This is potentially her rock bottom, so from here hopefully she can go up,” said Lukeman-Hiromasa, who said the city needs to send a message to the Senate that “this is not okay.”  She said she met with Winter and other council members a week before the public incident and said Winter appeared intoxicated during that meeting. 

“The rumors circulating around the capitol that this is accepted is only going to end up getting her or someone else hurt.”

Under Senate Rule 43, leadership, including Democratic Senate President Steve Fenberg, Majority Leader Robert Rodriguez and Minority Leader Paul Lundeeen, must decide whether the ethics complaint against Winter has merit or should be dismissed. If it does move forward, leadership would convene an ethics committee to investigate further.

In a written statement after the city council’s vote, Fenberg said Winter is an important and valued leader in the Senate Democratic Caucus and that the caucus will continue to support her as she seeks the treatment that she needs. 

“All elected officials have the responsibility to hold themselves to a high standard, and I take any accusation of a Senator's misconduct seriously. Once we receive the complaint, I will take the appropriate next steps as required by our Senate rule on ethics.” said Fenberg.

Winter was first elected to the state House in 2014. Four years later, she ran for Senate, flipping a Republican-held seat. She won reelection in 2022 for a term that runs through 2027.