Breaking News
More () »

Move to expel Colorado lawmaker accused of grabbing aide's buttocks fails

Move to expel Colorado lawmaker accused of grabbing aide's buttocks fails
Credit: David Zalubowski, AP
Colorado state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, left, looks over a Democratic resolution to expel Senator Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, right, during a debate on the chamber's floor calling for Baumgardner's expulsion, April 2, 2018, in the State Capitol in Denver.

DENVER — A resolution to expel a member of the Colorado General Assembly accused of sexual harassment failed Monday night.

Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, was accused of grabbing and slapping the buttocks of a legislative aide on four occasions during the 2016 legislative session.

Senate Resolution 3's main sponsor, Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, asked for the three-page resolution to be read aloud in full before the chamber voted.

The resolution failed 17 to 17 around 9 p.m. MT. It needed 24 votes to pass. The Senate is made up of 18 Republicans, 16 Democrats and one Independent — Sen. Cheri Jahn. A vote to expel a member of the legislature requires two-thirds of the chamber to agree.

Senate President Kevin Grantham — the top Republican lawmaker in Colorado — had criticized the outside investigation of Baumgardner and closed the case in February, citing “inaccuracies, bias, conflicts of interest and inconsistencies” in the report, according to The Denver Post. Grantham refused to introduce the Democratic resolution to oust Baumgarder for seven weeks and hastily scheduled the debate Monday.

Credit: David Zalubowski, AP
Colorado state Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Edwards, talks about a resolution to expel Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, during a debate on the chamber's floor about the Democratic measure April 2, 2018, in the State Capitol in Denver.

Baumgardner was the second Colorado legislator to face expulsion this session over harassment claims.

On March 2, Colorado state Rep. Steve Lebsock was expelled following complaints he harassed or intimidated five women, including a fellow lawmaker. Lebsock’s ouster came after Arizona Republican Rep. Don Shooter was expelled Feb. 1 over misconduct claims. A California lawmaker resigned before debate on his expulsion could commence.

Monday’s vote in Colorado was the latest confrontation in the Legislature this session over sexual harassment allegations involving several lawmakers that arose with the #MeToo movement last fall. That movement saw millions of women taking to social media to publicize their experiences with sexual harassment in and out of the workplace.

Five Colorado lawmakers have been accused of misconduct in recent months.

Sen. Larry Crowder was accused by Democratic Rep. Susan Lontine of sexual harassment. He denied wrongdoing. Last week, Grantham closed a sexual misconduct investigation involving Sen. Jack Tate, a suburban Denver Republican.

Credit: David Zalubowski, AP
Legislative aides stand together during the reading of a Democratic resolution calling for the expulsion of Colorado state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, during a debate on the chamber's floor April 2, 2018, in the State Capitol in Denver. Baumgardner is accused of inappropriately touching a former legislative aide.

Democratic Rep. Paul Rosenthal was cleared of allegations he harassed a political activist before he was elected in 2012.

A third-party investigator determined that the former aide’s claims against Baumgardner were credible. The aide said that Baumgardner grabbed and slapped her buttocks on more than one occasion during the 2016 session.

Grantham had deemed Baumgardner’s case closed following the investigation and after Baumgardner resigned as chair of the powerful transportation committee.

Democrats argued the punishment was too light and sent the wrong message to victims. They had lobbied for weeks to have their expulsion resolution introduced for debate.

Colorado’s Democratic Senate minority leader stepped down from that post last month, citing frustration with majority Republicans’ handling of workplace harassment allegations. Sen. Lucia Guzman of Denver had struggled with Senate Republican leaders over the handling of misconduct allegations against the three Republican lawmakers.

Grantham had refused to allow debate. He described some of the anonymous accusations against senators as tantamount to “assault,” and he had urged prosecutors to investigate harassment complaints at the Capitol.

Grantham has pledged to work with Democrats to produce a new workplace harassment policy for the Legislature. Leaders of the House and Senate are set to discuss a proposal by an outside consultant Wednesday.

Democrats had introduced their resolution calling for debate on Baumgardner after Lebsock was expelled March 9. Each day, they appealed to Republicans — most of whom would leave the chamber — for debate on the resolution.

Before the vote, Baumgardner, at his seat in the back of the chamber, followed along with a print copy of the resolution as it was read aloud, while Democrats stood at their desks on the other side of the aisle.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Paid Advertisement