KUNC’s Bente Birkeland breaks more ugly news from the Colorado General Assembly–this time two members of the Republican state Senate majority accused of harassing lobbyists–and, in at least one case, an intern working for a member from across the aisle:
New claims of sexual harassment have been brought up at the Colorado legislature involving Sens. Randy Baumgardner and Jack Tate. Both, in comments to us, strongly deny any wrongdoing, although they refused to answer our specific questions directly.
Megan Creeden, an intern who was 25 at the time, told us she had many uncomfortable encounters with Baumgardner during the 2016 legislative session. She said Baumgardner often pressured her to drink with him in his office and she didn’t want to be with him in his office alone because she didn’t know him…
Six other female lobbyists and staffers who declined to be named for this story, fearing going public would affect their work relationships at the Capitol, said they also avoid Baumgardner. Some said they won’t work alone with Baumgardner and only go to his office in pairs or urge male colleagues to work with him instead. Baumgardner chairs the Senate Transportation and the Senate Capital Development Committees.
The allegations against Sen. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs are not surprising to many people in the Capitol we’ve spoken with–in fact it was only surprising that it took so many days after the initial allegations of widespread sexual harassment in the General Assembly came out almost one week ago for Baumgardner to become part of the story.
That’s a nice way of saying that Baumgardner’s reputation for this kind of thing is not a well-kept secret.
The case of Sen. Jack Tate, representing a substantially less safe suburban Denver Senate district, though, was perhaps less expected:
The former intern, who was 18 at the time, spoke to us on the condition of anonymity, because she could be involved in an unrelated sexual assault case involving a different person. She claims Tate was inappropriate with her repeatedly over a period of two-and-a-half months last year…
At one point, she alleged, Tate said to her, “if she wanted to move up in the world, give him a call.” [Pols emphasis]
Needless to say, eww. That’s the trademark blending of the professional with the skeezy you never, ever want to see.
In response to these new-but-not-really-new allegations, GOP Senate President Kevin Grantham released a new statement, overriding previous carefully-worded missives about “proactively” taking on the problem of sexual harassment. Now that Republicans are under the microscope, the Senate GOP leadership is officially clamming up:
We take every allegation of harassment or misconduct seriously. We ask those who feel they have been victims of harassment or inappropriate behavior at the General Assembly to file an official complaint, in confidence that their anonymity and rights will be protected. Going forward, Senate Republican leaders cannot and will not be responding to unsubstantiated or anonymous allegations against members appearing in the press, which the existing complaint process is designed to handle… [Pols emphasis]
Can you imagine the outcry if this had been House Speaker Crisanta Duran’s first response?
As you can see, the next phase of this troubling but very much necessary storyline appears to be underway. Stand by for updates tomorrow.