Colorado Senate Democrats call for Baumgardner's resignation over reported harassment finding

Posted at 4:15 PM, Feb 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-08 18:15:29-05

DENVER – All 16 of Colorado’s Senate Democrats on Thursday called for the resignation of state Sen. Randy Baumgardner amid reports that sexual harassment allegations made against him last year were indeed credible and silence from Republican leadership.

KUNC’s Bente Birkeland first reported last week that the anonymous woman, a former legislative aide, who filed the complaint against Baumgardner had been told by outside investigators that her complaint had been deemed credible. Denver7’s news partners at The Denver Post later corroborated KUNC’s report. Denver7 has not independently verified that the complaint was found to be credible.

The woman made the allegation last November, telling KUNC that Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Republican, had slapped or grabbed her buttocks several times at the state Capitol during the 2016 session.

At the time the allegations were made, a Senate Republican spokesman issued a statement from Baumgardner in which he indirectly denied the allegations.

“I always aim to conduct myself in an honorable, above-board manner that will make my constituents proud, and it has never been my intent to make anyone in this building uncomfortable. I have nothing but respect for my female colleagues, and for the women I work with regularly on staff, in the lobby and in the press corps,” he said at the time.

But both KUNC and The Post have since reported that any possible punishment for Baumgardner, which would be determined by Senate leadership, including his party’s leaders, could remain private forever.

And Senate President Kevin Grantham and Majority Leader Chris Holbert have so far declined to comment on the reported outcome of the query.

Baumgardner chairs the Senate transportation, and capital development committees, and is the vice chair of its agriculture, natural resources and energy committee.

But the panel of Democrats, the minority in the 35-member Senate, continued to push Thursday for him to be stripped of those titles, and slammed Republican leadership for what Democrats said was a lack of leadership.

"Through media reports, we understand that an independent investigation has found sexual harassment allegations against Senator Randy Baumgardner to be credible — allegations that he inappropriately touched a staff member on multiple occasions,” began the statement from the Senate Democrats caucus.

“Victims and the public at large deserve swift, deliberative, and transparent action in response to these allegations. Instead, despite having access to the independent investigation’s findings for weeks, Senate GOP leadership has taken no action and said that the public may never know what happens. Good faith efforts by our leadership to clarify the process and move things forward have been rebuffed and delayed,” it continued – before calling for Baumgardner to resign and be stripped of his chairmanships.

“We have no choice but to call for Senator Baumgardner to resign from public office. In the meantime, he must also be stripped of his committee chairmanships,” the Democrats said.

Senate Republicans did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat, said of the demands in a tweet: “It is hard to make public an occurrence of sexual harassment. It is harder when no action is taken. Silence is punishing. I was no longer comfortable with remaining silent.”

Two other Colorado state lawmakers still face continuing investigations regarding their alleged sexual harassment of women: Republican Sen. Jack Tate and Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock.

Tate was accused of making unwanted advances toward an unnamed intern, though he denied the allegations. Lebsock was accused by Rep. Faith Winter, a fellow Democrat, of sexually harassing her at a party that wrapped up the 2016 session.

Lebsock has been defiant in the face of calls from his own party leadership to resign, has said that “some of the alleged incidents have been significantly exaggerated” and that other allegations made against him “are completely false.” He said he wouldn’t caucus with the Democrats this session.

In response, House Speaker Crisanta Duran said at the time: “I’m disappointed in Rep. Lebsock’s attempts to shift attention to the actions of others rather than taking responsibility for his own.”