Thornton legislator Steve Lebsock facing expulsion from Legislature after sexual harassment claims deemed credible; Sen. Jack Tate allegations backed, too

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DENVER  | One Colorado lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct could face an expulsion vote as early as Friday.

Another legislator, who represents part of Aurora, faces possible retribution for accusations that he, too, sexually harassed at Capitol staffer.

Rep. Steve Lebsock, who represents Thornton, has been accused of sexually harassing a fellow legislator and four other women. He denies the allegations.

House Majority Leader KC Becker introduced an expulsion resolution late Tuesday, saying an outside investigator had judged 11 harassment allegations against Lebsock to be credible.

Becker called the claims “serious and egregious in nature.”

Complaints and investigations into alleged misconduct are considered confidential under the Colorado Legislature’s workplace harassment policy. Becker said she would release a redacted copy of the Lebsock findings to lawmakers.

Debate on the measure was scheduled for Friday.

If expelled, Lebsock would be the second state lawmaker across the country to be kicked out of office since the #MeToo movement emerged last fall. Millions of women shared their experiences as victims of sexual harassment or assault on social media, prompting a wave of sexual misconduct allegations in statehouses nationwide.

On Feb. 1, the Arizona House voted to expel Republican Rep. Don Shooter after an outside investigator determined he had engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment that created a hostile workplace.

In California, Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza resigned Feb. 22 just ahead of a possible vote to expel him. Mendoza called the investigation into alleged misconduct a farce and said he may run for the seat this fall.

Lebsock, a Democrat, is running for state treasurer and says he will fight expulsion.

“I’m willing to speak with any of my colleagues,” Lebsock said, referring to a 28-page defense he presented to lawmakers about his conduct before the legislative session began in January. “I don’t think I’ll be expelled.”

Colorado House lawmakers from both parties will caucus Thursday to consider the case before taking up the expulsion resolution. A two-thirds vote of the 65-member chamber is needed. Democrats hold 37 seats, including Lebsock’s.

Lebsock’s alleged misconduct involves fellow Democratic Rep. Faith Winter, as well as a former legislative aide and a former lobbyist who also lodged complaints.

Winter alleges that Lebsock acted aggressively toward her when she turned down his sexual advances during an end-of-session party in 2016. She said he grabbed her elbow and that she felt threatened.

Lebsock insisted Tuesday that his party was lining up behind Winter in her bid to win a state Senate seat this November that could challenge the narrow Republican majority in that chamber.

“The last thing I was thinking of when I came forward was politics,” Winter said Tuesday. “My whole goal in coming forward was to make sure this behavior stopped and that women in this building felt safe and felt like their voices were heard.”

The case is one of several involving Colorado lawmakers first reported by Rocky Mountain Community Radio .

Lebsock, another House Democrat and a Senate Republican have either been stripped of committee leadership positions or resigned voluntarily following claims of inappropriate conduct. All have denied wrongdoing.

Rocky Mountain Community Radio has also reported that claims against two other Republican members of the GOP-led Senate were found to be credible but that leadership has not taken action on those complaints.

 

The sexual harassment case is one of four in the Legislature that came to light as part of the national #MeToo movement. Last week, allegations were deemed credible against state Sen. Jack Tate, R-Arapahoe County. He’s accused of making inappropriate and lewd comments to a teenaged Capitol intern last year. He initially denied wrongdoing and has not addressed last week’s revelation.

Allegations were also deemed credible against state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Sulphur Springs. He was accused of touching and slapping a legislative aid’s buttocks on more than one occasion. Baumgardner was removed from a key committee post as punishment for his transgressions and has refused calls for his resignation.

A harassment complaint against Democratic Rep. Paul Rosenthal was dismissed on Jan. 4. Rosenthal had been accused of harassment by a political activist in 2012. The complaint was dismissed apparently because the alleged incident happened before Rosenthal was elected to his post.