Colorado Democrats push to expel senator accused of sexual misconduct

District 8 Senator Randy Baumgardner. The first day of the Colorado state legislative session. Jan 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

By James Anderson, Associated Press

Colorado Democrats on Wednesday urged Republicans who control the state Senate to allow debate on a resolution to expel GOP Sen. Randy Baumgardner, who was investigated on sexual misconduct allegations.

Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham said Baumgardner already has been punished — and renewed his call for Denver’s district attorney to investigate harassment complaints at the state Capitol.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Lucia Guzman said that Republican Senate leaders are “re-victimizing the victims” by refusing to introduce the resolution and by insisting that alleged victims take their misconduct complaints to prosecutors for criminal investigation.

Guzman said that proposal unfairly raises the bar for those seeking redress under the Legislature’s workplace harassment policy — one which offers no strict guidelines on sanctions.

“It is precisely to explore those questions (on sanctions) that we have brought the resolution,” said Democratic Sen. Daniel Kagan. Democrats introduced their resolution on Feb. 13.

Grantham noted late Wednesday that Guzman had stopped participating in internal deliberations on discipline for Baumgardner. Guzman did so on Feb. 8, protesting what she called delays in the process.

“Senator Baumgardner was punished, with the exact punishment requested by Senator Guzman when she was still part of the process, weeks ago. For her office to say otherwise is a complete misrepresentation,” Grantham said in a statement.

Baumgardner denies misconduct claims by a former legislative aide — claims that Democrats say a third-party investigator found credible. He did resign one of two committee chairmanships on Feb. 13 and agreed to sensitivity training but called the investigation flawed and biased. He’s refused to comment on the case.

KUNC-FM first reported the allegations involving Baumgardner and other lawmakers, including Rep. Steve Lebsock, who was expelled Friday from the House. Lebsock had denied harassment claims by five women.

Grantham has urged Denver District Attorney Beth McCann to launch criminal investigations into sexual misconduct and harassment complaints against lawmakers in both chambers.

He said criminal investigations would remove any political element from the current practice of hiring outside investigators. McCann said it would be up to victims to file complaints with police before her office could begin any investigation. Grantham, in a Tuesday letter to McCann that was made public by the Senate GOP, insisted she can initiate her own investigations.

“We, as legislators, lack the tools to investigate and punish allegations of this severity,” he said Wednesday.

“It’s sad that the Senate Republican leadership has to find ways to move outside … of our workplace, to try to find some other ways of keeping the process at a standstill,” Guzman told reporters earlier Wednesday. “They are re-victimizing the victims.”