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Colorado state Sen. Randy Baumgardner steps down as chair of Senate Transportation; Dems have a response

February 13, 2018 Updated: February 14, 2018 at 8:55 am
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photo - Sen. Randy Baumgardner during the opening day of the 2018 Colorado State Legislature on Wednesday, January 10, 2018.  (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)
Sen. Randy Baumgardner during the opening day of the 2018 Colorado State Legislature on Wednesday, January 10, 2018. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette) 

State Sen. Randy Baumgardner announced Tuesday he'll step down as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee as he's investigated for an allegation of sexual harassment that reportedly was found credible.

Senate Democrats responded with an announcement of their own: They will introduce a resolution Wednesday that calls for a Senate vote to expel Baumgardner.

Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, won't resign as chairman of the joint Capital Development Committee, nor as vice-chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

The second sexual harassment complaint against Baumgardner, as reported by KUNC Monday, was filed by former legislative intern Megan Creeden.

She told KUNC she filed the complaint because Senate Republican leadership didn't act on the first complaint filed against Baumgardner.

The first complaint was investigated by the Employers Council, which found "it appears more likely than not that Baumgardner grabbed and slapped a legislative aide's buttocks four times during the 2016 legislative session."

A letter signed by Senate President Kevin Grantham of Cañon City and Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert called the report biased, inaccurate, inconsistent and with conflicts of interest.

The letter also asks Baumgardner to take sensitivity training by March 16. "With this resolution, we deem the matter closed," the letter concluded.

"It's obvious this is beginning to impede important work we do at the Capitol," Baumgardner said Tuesday. He denied the allegations and called the investigation "flawed, inaccurate, incomplete and biased. I'm taking these steps voluntarily now in hopes it will bring this matter to a conclusion."

Baumgardner refused to take questions after his announcement.

Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, however, said she's far from satisfied with the decision. She questioned why Baumgardner was allowed to choose his own consequences rather than having them determined by the Senate president.

Guzman said several members of her Democratic caucus asked Grantham earlier in the day for Baumgardner's resignation.

The resolution - concerning the "expulsion of Senator Randy L. Baumgardner" - could be introduced as early as Wednesday, but Grantham could delay its introduction until April 12 under Senate rules, Guzman said.

"The caucus wholeheartedly believes this situation has infringed on the character of the Senate," Guzman said. "The resolution expresses the passion for integrity that this caucus has ... our job is not to question the report," she said, in response to Grantham's claim that the report is biased and inaccurate.

Guzman said it's the Senate's job "to question the perpetrator" in line with the General Assembly's harassment guidelines. "We don't take this lightly."

She said the time spent to resolve the issue, especially since the report was completed more than three weeks ago, is "offensive." Had Baumgardner resigned his leadership roles then, that might have made a difference, she said.

"It would have given the process more integrity."

The resolution says Baumgardner's "verbal and physical conduct constituted sexual harassment because it was of a sexual nature" and created an "intimidating, hostile and offensive working environment," in violation of General Assembly rules.

Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, said Baumgardner's conduct bordered on criminal, because his touching of the aide's body was inappropriate and targeted a sexual area, and because he is in a position of authority.

The resolutionwould need 24 Senate votes to pass, so eight Republicans would have to cross the aisle to vote for his expulsion, an unlikely scenario.

But Guzman said some Republicans are concerned about what's going on, and she hopes they'll consider it. "This is about the integrity of the Senate."

Aguilar said, "To see it only as a political issue is undermining the victim and victims' rights."

Grantham said, "Colorado Senate Democrats had the opportunity to be a part of the decision process. Their leadership withdrew from that process. Now that the process has reached its conclusion, they want to change their minds yet again and up the ante.

"Such politicization is always inappropriate, especially now that the matter is concluded."

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