Report: Emails warn Colorado capitol workers to avoid press

Report: Emails warn Colorado capitol workers to avoid press
Posted at 6:09 PM, Mar 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-13 20:09:12-04

DENVER (AP) — The nonpartisan administrator of Colorado's state Senate has warned staff, aides and interns that policy forbids them from speaking to journalists about workplace issues — including sexual harassment.

KUNC-FM reported Tuesday that Senate Secretary Effie Ameen sent two emails reminding workers that giving interviews to reporters is a violation of chamber policy. Ameen sent the emails in February and March as the Senate's GOP leadership was insisting that sexual misconduct and workplace harassment complaints against lawmakers either be handled confidentially — per the Legislature's workplace harassment policy — or by prosecutors.

Ameen declined to comment Tuesday on the report.

KUNC has reported on misconduct allegations against three GOP senators as well as harassment complaints that led to the March 2 ouster in the Democrat-led House of Rep. Steve Lebsock.

"I know the press has been requesting interviews from aides and possibly other staff," Ameen wrote Feb. 2 to coordinators for aides and interns at a time when lawmakers and others were undergoing workplace harassment training.

"Except for the (Senate) media staff and those employees designated by the President or the Minority Leader to represent the Senate to the media, no Senate employee, including aides, interns and volunteers may grant interviews to the press."

Ameen sent a second email on March 5 to about 20 nonpartisan administrators, again citing the policy as well as confidentiality rules for any harassment investigation.

The workplace policy does allow accusers and accused to go public with their allegations and findings of any independent investigation.

Senate President Kevin Grantham said he didn't object to interns and aides being interviewed about training.

"I think someone who is making a complaint should make every effort to avail themselves of the process, including confidentiality," Grantham said. "But at some point, and I don't know that magic point in time, there has to be a legitimate means to find another avenue."

Steve Zansberg, a First Amendment attorney, said the emails appeared to be an attempt to interfere with public employees' right to speak out about conditions of their employment.

The House has a similar policy. But both the Democratic House majority leader, KC Becker, and Republican Rep. Justin Everett of the Denver suburb of Littleton said aides, interns and staff should be comfortable about speaking out.