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Botched firing causes confusion in the Colorado legislature

Two people have the same job at the Colorado State Senate - and Democrats won't say if taxpayers are on the hook to pay for them.

DENVER — Two people appear to be doing the same job at the State Capitol as a result of a botched firing by Senate Democrats, who won’t say whether taxpayers are funding both positions at once.

The fiasco began the day before Thanksgiving. According to outgoing Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City), the top nonpartisan administrative staffer for the Senate was fired by incoming Democratic leadership. By Monday, Secretary of the Senate Effie Ameen found her email access, building access and computer access all revoked.

Keith Barnish, a spokesman for Senate Democrats, said they hired former Secretary of the Senate Cindy Markwell to return to the position. Barnish said her first day at work was Monday.

The only problem? According to the legislature's attorneys, Democrats don't have the power to terminate the Secretary of the Senate nor name the replacement. Ameen was elected to her position by the members of the chamber and her replacement would need to be elected as well, the attorneys said.

In an emailed statement, Senate Republicans spokesman Sage Naumann called the Democrats' actions illegal, blaming Senate President-designee Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) for the move.

“If Senate Democrats are claiming that the President-designate has the right to either hire or fire the Secretary of the Senate, they are either blatantly ignoring Colorado State Law and Senate rules or relying on our silence to force their will,” Naumann said.

Senate Democrats would not confirm to 9NEWS if taxpayers are on the hook for paying both Ameen and her eventual replacement for the time being.

The Senate Democrats spokesman Barnish acknowledged Wednesday, after three days of inquiries by 9NEWS, that Markwell “has not technically been hired as Secretary of the Senate.”

It’s still unclear how Markwell is being paid at the same time Ameen apparently holds the job.

Editor's note: The last paragraph incorrectly mixed up Barnish and Markwell. The name has been corrected.

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