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Colorado legislator lodges sexual harassment complaint against fellow Democrat

November 13, 2017 Updated: November 13, 2017 at 8:00 pm
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State Rep. Faith Winter of Westminster filed an official complaint Monday against a fellow Democrat, Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton, accusing him of making lewd remarks to her in a bar at the end of the legislative session in 2016.

KUNC's Bente Birkland broke a deeply reported story Friday that alleged Lebsock sexually harassed Winter, who is married. She also reported that former lobbyist Holly Tarry and former legislative aide Cassie Tanner accused Lebsock of sexually harassing them.

Winter filed the complaint with House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, who on Friday called for Lebsock to resign and removed him as chairman of the House Local Government Committee.

Shaken and nearly emotional, Lebsock was at the Capitol Monday but said he could not speak about the allegations against him. He told Colorado Politics he soon will have more information about his future as a legislator, his candidacy for state treasurer and the allegations.

Lebsock is divorced.

Duran released a lengthy statement about the next steps in the complaint process, including a confidential investigation of Lebsock's actions toward women at the Capitol.

It's unclear what further steps could be taken against him. No one has proposed criminal or civil penalties from the allegations, which mostly amount to coarse language toward the women.

A number of other Democrats have called for Lebsock to step down, too.

"In the past week, there have been a number of deeply troubling allegations regarding sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by legislators in the Capitol," Duran said in a statement. "As speaker, I am responsible for conducting investigations for any formal complaints that are filed regarding representatives and third parties.

"While it is my job to consider each case on the merits, here's where I start: sexual harassment and assault are unacceptable, and we need to take this issue head on. Our legislature should be a place where everyone feels safe and respected, where anyone who has been subjected to harassing behavior knows that they can speak up and be heard without fear of reprisal, and where the arc of your career is determined by your hard work, qualifications, merit and skill."

Duran said the legislature's policy on such complaints should be changed "to better ensure that victims' voices are heard, and to raise awareness about what constitutes workplace harassment and what a person should do if he or she experiences it."

On a list of proposals, she calls for annual workplace harassment training "inclusive of people who regularly work in the (Capitol). We have traditionally had a workplace harassment training for legislators every two years and for new staff when they begin. Due to the heightened need for awareness, legislators and legislative staff should receive this training annually, and lobbyists and members of the press should be invited to attend.

"Everyone who works in the legislative process should be more aware of what constitutes workplace harassment and what their rights are if they encounter it," Duran said.

Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, also laid out proposals to prevent sexual harassment, including the creation of a committee to research and implement better training and reporting.

"While we have a comprehensive awareness training and reporting system in place, recent events show that we can and should do better," Grantham said. "We have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment but welcome the opportunity to improve upon our procedures."

Duran said new policies and training are a starting point.

"Speaker Duran has done everything correctly," Winter told Colorado Politics in an e-mail. "In May of 2016 Speaker Hullinghorst and then-Majority Leader Duran took the allegation seriously, worked with legal services to provide me with legal options and most importantly respected my decisions as a survivor. It was my decision not to move forward with a formal complaint. I worked with leadership to come up with a resolution that I felt most comfortable with."

She said she would "go public" if she heard anything else. "I hadn't heard of subsequent allegations until last week," Winter said.

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