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Sexual harassment scandal hits Colorado legislature 

click to enlarge Crisanta Duran wants an outside agency, rather than legislative leaders, to handle complaints. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Crisanta Duran wants an outside agency, rather than legislative leaders, to handle complaints.

A sexual harassment scandal rocked Colorado last week when allegations arose from nine legislators, staffers and lobbyists against state Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Thornton Democrat running for state treasurer.

Legislative leadership responded to the Nov. 10 report by KUNC of Denver by calling for improved training for state lawmakers in workplace behavior, changes to the reporting process and a study to advance training and reporting procedures. Many have also called for Lebsock to step down, including Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who's running for governor. Gov. John Hickenlooper, also a Democrat, stepped lighter, calling the harassment "unacceptable" and urging action to "make sure that we have the appropriate protocols in place to investigate and take action on inappropriate conduct."

Lebsock reportedly tried to get Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, to leave a bar with him in 2016 during a party to celebrate the close of the legislative session. Another lawmaker vouched for the incident, and other women came forward to report similar encounters. One lobbyist said Lebsock propositioned her while having a policy discussion in his office.

Lebsock said in a release that while "we should take these accusations seriously... I have done nothing that can be described as criminal. ... At the end of the road, I believe this experience will help me become a better person and I only hope the very best for everyone involved."

On Nov. 10, Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, temporarily removed Lebsock as chair of the House Local Government Committee and issued a release calling for stepped up training on sexual harassment for legislators and staff and for changing how complaints are investigated. Duran wants an outside agency, rather than legislative leaders, to handle complaints and recommend disciplinary action to lawmakers. "I am also requesting our nonpartisan Legislative Legal Services and Legislative Council to review our current policy and provide their recommendations for updates," she said in the release.

Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, issued a release on Nov. 13 saying he would launch a five-part "improvement plan" that includes more frequent training, as suggested by Duran; creating online or email reporting in addition to existing procedures; publishing resources for victims more prominently on the General Assembly's website; and setting up a study committee to research and implement training and reporting changes.

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