State Rep. Steve Lebsock issues fresh apology to 3 women who accused him of sexual harassment

Posted at 1:59 PM, Nov 11, 2017

DENVER -- Democratic State Rep. Steve Lebsock issued a fresh apology Saturday to the three women who have accused him of sexual harassment in The Denver Post and said he will make a statement by the end of the month on his status as a state representative and a state treasurer candidate.

“I have come to realize that it does not matter that, at the time, I may have perceived my words as playful,” he wrote to The Post. “It does not matter that, at the time, I may have felt that we were flirting. It does not matter that, at the time, I may have felt what I said was ok. It does not matter that I may not remember the exact words which were hurtful. It does not matter that, at the time, I thought we were joking.”

“The only thing that matters is how I made these three women feel,” he continued. “I am sorry.”

His full statement, obtained by Denver Post political reporter John Frank, can be read in full below:

The newly released statement addressed not only fellow representative Faith Winter, D-Westminster, by name, but also former lobbyist Holly Tarry and former legislative aide Cassie Tanner, who spoke to The Post Friday evening about allegations of sexual harassment coming from Lebsock.  

In the Saturday statement, Lebsock ended by saying he would make an announcement regarding his future as state representative and as a candidate for the Colorado State Treasury by the end of November. 

Frank also obtained on Saturday evening a statement from the three women Lebsock is accused of sexually harassing. 

In the statement, they said they appreciated his apology and the fact that he's beginning to take responsibility for his actions. They also said that "his apology was about how we made us feel but he never apologizes for his actions." Lastly, they ask that Lebsock resign from his post. 

You can read their full statement below: 

This is the second statement the embattled Democratic representative has issued in just the last 24 hours.

On Friday night, he released a lengthy statement through his Colorado State Treasurer campaign website, in which he apologized to Winter before asking anonymous accusers to submit official complaints through a "professional, responsible process" and "not just through the media." 

Winter’s allegation, and those of eight others, was first reported Friday by KUNC’s Bente Birkeland.

Winter said at the end-of-session party, she and Lebsock were talking. She says Lebsock learned her husband was out of town.

"At that time, he proceeded to try to get me to leave the bar with him," Winter told Denver7. "He talked about what he wanted to do sexually. He used explicit language. He told me he would do things to me that my husband never had. I repeatedly told him no."

Winter says she told Lebsock to leave and "go back home."

"The more I refused, the more aggressive and angry he became. He was standing over me...he was grabbing my elbow trying to get me to leave," she said. "At that point, I did not feel safe."

She says she called Rep. Alec Garnett over, who was standing nearby, and says Garnett got Lebsock out of the bar and offered to get him an Uber. Birkeland's report shows Garnett used colorful language to get Lebsock away from Winter.

Winter told Denver7 she met with legislative leadership to discuss the incident shortly after it happened, and agreed not to go public with the allegation unless she heard similar allegations from others in the Legislature.

"The reason it was right now was because I wanted to behavior to end, and I told Representative Lebsock that if I heard of another woman that he sexually harassed, that I would be the first to come public, and that is what happened this week," Winter said.

Democratic colleagues call on Lebsock to resign

House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, released a statement after Birkeland’s story was published saying if the allegations are true, Lebsock should resign.

“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,” Duran said.

“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,” Duran continued. “There is no place for those types of actions at the legislature.”

About 30 minutes after that statement was released, Duran had temporarily removed Lebsock from his chairmanship of the House Local Government Committee.

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) issued a lengthy statement about the allegations and harassment in general Friday afternoon:

"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.

“We must ensure that all are respected and the environment where we work is safe. This is especially true for women who are underrepresented in politics. Women should have the ability to conduct their jobs in politics and government without fear of harassment or retribution.”

Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, via her governor's campaign, called for Lebsock's resignation.

"These are serious allegations, and this type of behavior -- corroborated by multiple people -- cannot be tolerated in any workplace, must less from a public official. As such, Rep. Lebsock should resign," she said in a prepared statement. "I understand coming forward in situation like this is not easy, and I stand with those who have the courage to do so."

Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll also called for "anyone who engages" in similar behavior to resign, though she did not name Lebsock directly. "This is not a partisan issue - this is an issue of human dignity," she said. Colorado Dems spokesman Eric Walker clarified that Carroll's statement meant she thought Lebsock should resign.

Winter responds to Lebsock's original statement

Winter spoke with Denver7's Liz Gelardi on Friday night and called parts of his original statement "unfortunate." 

"He, in the statement, said Coloradans are tired of dirty politics... the audacity to say women coming out about their experience with sexual harassment and call it 'dirty politics' is unfortunate," Winter said over a phone conversation. "We would not be here today if he had not continued his actions of sexually harassing women."

Winter, who said Lebsock apologized after the harassment, added that though he may not remember what he did, "that doesn't make it appropriate."  

"He said he was going to quit drinking and get counseling. I was hopeful that the behavior would stop," Winter said. "It did not stop, and so I fear that if he's in public life, the sexual harassment will continue."

She also said she is meeting with leadership and legal services on Monday to talk about future legal options. 

Allegations of sexual harassment inside Colorado Legislature shouldn't surprise anyone 

Colorado Politics reporter Marianne Goodland, who has covered the state Capitol and Legislature for 20 years, said Friday she wasn't surprised the allegations came to light.

"The legislature is a horrible place for women, and it hasn't changed despite the fact we have more women lawmakers among the Democrats now in both the House and Senate. We still have a huge problem of sexual harassment," Goodland said.

"You hear these stories. Unfortunately, you hear them too often."

Winter’s claims against Lebsock come as scores of high-profile actors, executives, and politicians are being publicly accused of inappropriate sexual conduct. Earlier this week, Denver7 reported on three female 911 dispatchers who have accused the Lake County undersheriff of sexual harassment. The district attorney has an active investigation.