UPDATE: We would be remiss if we didn’t include the response from Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg on the question of Sen. Randy Baumgardner’s expulsion–keep in mind this is the same Sen. Sonnenberg who referred to a fellow Senator as “eye candy” in a 2016 legislative hearing:
“I have nothing to add. Let’s talk about those issues that the vast majority of people want to talk about in Colorado,” the Sterling lawmaker said, such as “how are we going to fix our roads.”
Now that’s the way you show you care, ladies and gentlemen.
The Denver Post’s John Frank follows up last week’s news that a sexual harassment complaint filed against GOP Sen. Randy Baumgardner has been deemed “credible” by investigators–another step in a long and uneven road to accountability for perpetrators of what’s been revealed to be widespread harassment at the Colorado General Assembly. Readers will recall that two Democratic House members have been stripped of their committee chairmanships after allegations were leveled against them.
But over in the GOP-controlled Senate, a very different climate prevails:
Senate President Kevin Grantham on Monday disputed suggestions that the outcome of the credible complaint against Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, will remain private — even as he declined to promise to release it.
An outside investigation verified a complaint against Baumgardner that he allegedly slapped and grabbed the buttocks of a legislative aide multiple times during the 2016 legislative session.
Grantham — along with the Senate majority and minority leader — are now deciding whether the complaint merits disciplinary action, which ranges from nothing to expulsion. But the General Assembly’s workplace harassment policy does not state whether the disciplinary action will become public.
As of this writing, no disciplinary action of any kind has been taken against Sen. Baumgardner. Baumgardner remains the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and the prime sponsor of that chamber’s centerpiece transportation bill. This point is very important in contrast to House Speaker Crisanta Duran’s removal of Reps. Steve Lebsock and Paul Rosenthal from their committee chair and vice-chair. And it is critical to understand that the removal of these men from their chairs was not just punitive: it was done to minimize the chance of victims coming in contact with perpetrators, and above all, to prevent new offenses.
Unfortunately, protecting victims from perpetrators while the complaint process plays out has not been a priority for Senate President Kevin Grantham. The obvious prioritization of accused Republican lawmakers over their victims by GOP Senate leadership cannot help but intimidate victims and discourage more from coming forward. In the case of Sen. Baumgardner, as we’ve said repeatedly since the sexual harassment scandal broke, the behavior was sufficiently common knowledge at the Capitol that there is no plausible way Senate leadership can profess ignorance.
The sordid revelations from the Colorado General Assembly of lawmakers who can’t keep their hands off women forced to work with them have been nobody’s finest hour, except perhaps for the brave women who came forward and the relatively-obscure public radio reporter who single-handedly blew up the culture of harassment under the Gold Dome.
But there is one party, and one chamber, that is looking worse by the day.