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El Paso County's Statehouse delegation votes 7-1 to expel Steve Lebsock

March 6, 2018 Updated: March 6, 2018 at 4:57 pm
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photo - Colorado State Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, listens during a debate in the chamber whether to expel the lawmaker over sexual misconduct allegations from his peers Friday, March 2, 2018, in the State Capitol in Denver. The effort faces tough odds amid Republican objections to how the complaints have been handled. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Colorado State Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, listens during a debate in the chamber whether to expel the lawmaker over sexual misconduct allegations from his peers Friday, March 2, 2018, in the State Capitol in Denver. The effort faces tough odds amid Republican objections to how the complaints have been handled. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

El Paso County's eight state House members were nearly unanimous in expelling Rep. Steve Lebsock, with only one voting against expulsion of the Thornton Democrat.

The "no" vote came from the county's newest House member, Colorado Springs Republican Shane Sandridge, who was appointed in December to replace Rep. Dan Nordberg, also of Colorado Springs.

Friday, the House voted 52-9, with three members absent and Lebsock not voting, to expel Lebsock for allegedly sexually harassing five women, including fellow Democratic Rep. Faith Winter of Westminster. Sixteen Republicans joined the remaining 36 Democrats in favor of expulsion.

Party affiliation didn't make a difference. Six Republicans and two Democrats are from El Paso County, and all but one voted for expulsion.

Sandridge explained his "no" vote Tuesday. The former Kansas City police officer also is a former psychotherapist who worked with people with criminal tendencies.

"I've been through many processes, analyzing people's truthfulness," he told Colorado Politics. "There has to be a process," he said, and he wasn't comfortable with the one in front of them.

Sandridge said he would have preferred to see more evidence.

"We had letters from anonymous people," he said. "I would have liked more time to read over the documents, maybe even question some of the accusers and Lebsock."

The House hired the Employers Council to analyze the witnesses' demeanor, and Sandridge said he would have liked that same opportunity.

"When you're asking to override Lebsock's constituents, override their sacred vote, that's a big deal. We need to go through a specific due process before that takes place."

Perhaps the most surprising "yes" vote came from Rep. Dave Williams, R- Colorado Springs, who tried but failed to persuade lawmakers to set up a select committee to investigate Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, a Denver Democrat.

The committee, according to an amendment offered by Williams during Friday's debate, would have asked why Lebsock was promoted to a position of power "with the potential risk that citizen activists, lobbyists, employees and other colleagues could be victimized."

Duran promoted Lebsock in 2017 to be chairman of the House Local Government Committee.

Winter said Lebsock propositioned her in May 2016 at an end-of-session party, and she said "no" to him five times. She complained shortly after the event to Duran, eliciting a promise from Lebsock to stop drinking and cause no further incidents.

Winter said she learned in November, though, that the behavior hadn't stopped, so she filed a formal complaint.

A month later, Lebsock began drafting a 28-page manifesto of allegations about the alleged victims' sex lives. Many lawmakers from both parties saw that as retaliation, which is strictly prohibited under the General Assembly's workplace harassment policy. The manifesto was distributed to every House member when the session started in January, and Lebsock was stripped of his committee chairmanship.

About four hours into Friday's debate, Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, was the first of his caucus to announce he would vote to expel. That drew gasps in the chamber, but Liston said loyalty only goes so far.

Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, said she would vote yes because a "no" vote would send the wrong message.

"Just because the Democratic leadership engaged in a coverup doesn't excuse Lebsock's behavior," Williams told Colorado Politics on Tuesday. "I believed the victims back in November; I believe them now. His behavior, plus the retaliatory manner in which he responded, was unacceptable."

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