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'In Protest,' Top Senate Dem Withdraws From Sexual Harassment Discipline Process

Feb 8, 2018
Originally published on June 30, 2018 11:03 am

Colorado Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman said she does not want to be involved in any process that would determine potential disciplinary actions against Sen. Randy Baumgardner for sexual harassment. This follows a public effort by her fellow Democrats who urged in a letter that she be a part of that process.

“Please know that I am taking myself out of any and all discussions regarding the action taken or not taken on the Baumgardner report of allegations,” Guzman wrote to Senate Republican leaders on Wednesday. “I will not serve in this capacity.”

A former legislative aide filed a complaint against Baumgardner, a Republican, in November alleging that he slapped and grabbed her buttocks four times in 2016. The Employers Council conducted an investigation into those allegations. The 12-page report dated Jan. 18, 2018,  "finds it more likely than not" that they are true. Baumgardner has refuted the allegations since we  first reported them -- and did so in the investigation.

Earlier this week, Senate President Kevin Grantham said in a media briefing that he didn’t know who would make the final decision on any disciplinary action.

Asked today (Feb. 8, 2018), Grantham walked back that statement. He said he knows more about the process than he did earlier this week.  He said there is no way he would exclude Guzman because the accuser's contact person, the Senate secretary, gave all three leaders the investigation's findings.

“Pragmatically speaking, how do I do that once she [the accuser's contact person] contacted the three of us," Grantham said. "How do I do that? It doesn’t work like that, not in this building. She chose the three of us, and that makes us the team to get it done and now one member of the team has sidelined themselves. While not wanting me to be the decision maker in this, they [Democrats] have effectively made me the decision maker. I didn’t ask for that.”

Guzman said she had been pushing Grantham and Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert to resolve the Baumgardner complaint with her but she wasn’t getting answers.

“I just decided enough is enough,” she said. “We’ve been waiting to see movement on harassment for decades and I’m not letting one more day go by without taking action. It’s my hope that withdrawing my name in protest draws more attention to what’s been going on here and moves things forward. Every moment of delay undermines the integrity of the Colorado Senate."

But Grantham said more time is needed to understand the findings.

“There are more things in the report that we have to deal with than simply a bottom line paragraph," he said. "We have a duty to examine this report in its totality. Not only that, we have to look at potential actions at the end of that analysis. If we’re going to do something that effects the accuser and also the accused, we still want to be very deliberate."

Senate and House leaders have repeatedly said that sexual harassment cannot be tolerated at the Capitol. And Senate Democrats banded together to express their view that a woman and leaders in both parties are critical to making decisions on consequences for bad behavior. 

“I think traditionally there’s a way that we define a leadership decision and it involves both parties: the minority and majority party,” said Democratic Sen. Kerry Donovan of Vail. "I think at this point a lot of us are seeking acknowledgement and transparency in the conclusions and the commitment to reexamine this process and do better going forward.”

The Employers Council highlighted the difficulty of proving the case, calling it a “he said she said situation." After interviewing three witnesses, the former aide and Baumgardner, the investigator sided with the former aide. The investigator said it came down to credibility and that Baumgardner appeared evasive of the allegations. 

“Taking all statements to this investigator into consideration, it appears more likely than not that Randy Baumgardner grabbed and slapped the rear end of a legislative aide during the 2016 legislative session of the Colorado General Assembly on several occasions," the investigation stated.

Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.

 
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