Colorado State Rep. Steve Lebsock asked to resign after sexual harassment allegations

Colorado's House Speaker has asked State Rep. Steve Lebsock to resign following a report on sexual harassment allegations.

DENVER - A state lawmaker, Colorado State Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, is being asked to resign by members of his own party after another state lawmaker came forward with accusations of sexual harassment. 

State. Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, told 9NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger that Lebsock made sexually suggestive comments to her at a party, held away from the Capitol at Stoney's on Lincoln Street, to celebrate the end of the 2016 legislative session. 

"Through normal conversation, he had discovered that my husband was out of town," Winter said in an interview with Zelinger. "He used sexually explicit language, suggestive language, said he would do things to me that my husband had never done and kept asking me to leave."

Winter says she refused to go with Lebsock, who, she says, became agitated and started grabbing her elbow. She says that another state representative, Alec Garnett, D-Denver, took Lebsock outside to help arrange a ride home.

Winter tells 9NEWS that she did report the incident to the Colorado Legislature leadership and their legal department, and then opted to have a mediated conversation with Lebsock, who says he has no recollection of Winter's story. 

"At that time, he said he would stop drinking. He said he’d get therapy. And ultimately, I just wanted the behavior to end," Winter said. "‘I told him, 'If I ever hear of you harassing another woman, I will be the first one to come public.'"

Allegations against Lebsock, from Winter and other women who work at the state Capitol, were first detailed in a report by Bente Berkland with KUNC radio. Winter says two other women in the Capitol approached her days after the party to say they, too, were harassed by Lebsock. She heard of the latest allegation this week from Berkland.

9NEWS reached out to Lebsock, a Democratic candidate for State Treasurer, Friday afternoon. Lebsock said over the phone that no one has filed a formal complaint against him during his time in the state legislature. He also said he does not have any recollection of what Winter accuses him of, nor does he remember any other inappropriate behavior directed toward other women at the Capitol. 

"I did have a number of drinks and, but—I can honestly say that I do not remember ever saying anything that was inappropriate that evening to Rep. Winter," Lebsock said. "I do not remember ever saying anything that was out of line to anyone at the Capitol and that’s all that I can say at this point."

In a statement Friday evening, Lebsock wrote the people of Colorado are "tired of dirty politics." He does not mention anything about resigning. The statement read, in part:

I do not remember ever saying anything inappropriate to State Representative Faith Winter on the last day of session in May of 2016 (18 months ago).

I am respectfully asking any anonymous accusers and State Representative Faith Winter to submit any official complaint, through the normal professional process not just through the media. There is a professional, responsible process established by the Office of Legal Services for any accusations from employees of the State or anyone doing business at the State Capitol. I will honestly and thoughtfully submit my response to any allegation.

I have done nothing that can be described as criminal. Nothing. ...

18 months ago, I sincerely apologized to State Representative Faith Winter for offending her.
State Representative Faith Winter emailed me approximately 10 days after the last day of session May of 2016. I asked, but, was never told specifically what I said which she felt was offensive. I read her side of the story, 18 months later today, in the press.

Winter told 9NEWS she is not surprised by Lebsock's response, and that he did not remember that night in the days following the end-of-session party.

"After the situation, he did apologize," Winter said. "He very much wanted me to tell him what he said, and I was not comfortable doing that."

Winter said she does not currently have any plans to report Lebsock to police. Her goal in coming forward with these allegations is to stop the behavior.

Winter says she avoided one-on-one interactions with Lebsock during the 2017 legislative session.

"I frankly try not to interact with him, and I’m just constantly trying to keep him from not being angry with me," Winter said. 

House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, removed Lebsock from his chairmanship of the House Local Government Committee on Friday, after the original report, and has asked for Lebsock to step down from his position. 

Duran said in a statement on Friday:

"These are deeply disturbing allegations. I believe there should be extremely high standards of conduct for the legislature, and I take any allegations of sexual assault and harassment very seriously. While my formal role in investigating complaints established under Joint Rule 38 prohibits me from making initial judgments about the facts, these numerous allegations would represent a major breach of decorum, and I would expect that Representative Lebsock would consider the impact of his actions on his colleagues and the public confidence in our institution, and do the right thing and resign. There is no place for those types of actions at the legislature."

In a letter to the Legislative Council Executive Director, Duran wrote:

"I am writing to inform you that effective immediately. I am temporarily removing Representative Lebsock as chair of the House Local Government Committee. This change will stay in effect until further notice."

When asked by 9NEWS, Lebsock said he will send out a statement regarding whether or not he will resign.

Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, decried harassment on Twitter, but did not mention Lebsock by name. He said everyone should feel safe at work, and that is especially true for women in government, an underrepresented group.

"Harassment is unacceptable. Today’s news should give us pause to make sure that we have the appropriate protocols in place to investigate and take action on inappropriate conduct," he wrote.

Duran also said she was going to bring more attention to the awareness of workplace harassment.

"In addition to a number of efforts we will be undertaking to raise awareness of workplace harassment, I plan to work with my colleagues to review the current process to determine whether it’s adequate to address situations of harassment or assault at the legislature, and make any changes needed," said Duran.

The head of Colorado's Democratic Party, Morgan Caroll, did not mention Lebsock by name, but wrote in her statement, "There is simply no place in our Capitol, our state, or our society for this type of abhorrent, predatory behavior. Anyone who engages in this behavior should step down.”

Late on Friday, after Winter's admission, a former Colorado legislative aid came forward to accuse Lebsock of inappropriate contact.

Cassie Tanner worked at the capitol from 2014 to 2015.

Tanner said in 2014 she was at a Denver Young Dems event at 1UP when Lebsock reached over and undid one of the buttons on her blouse and remarked, "That’s better."

She said she was so shocked she smacked his hand away. Tanner no longer works at the capitol and decided to speak out in solidarity with representative Winter.

9NEWS also spoke to now-Sen. Dominick Moreno – who said he was at the party last year as well.

He said he saw Winter look uncomfortable during a conversation with Lebsock and saw Garnett intervene and was told afterward what happened.

Marshall Zelinger is an investigative reporter for Next with Kyle Clark. Do you have more information about this story? Have another tip? Email marshall@9news.com or call 303.349.0784.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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