UPDATE 3:45PM: After a long day of debate and caucus meetings by both Republicans and Democrats, House Speaker Crisanta Duran told reporters a short while ago that the vote to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock from the Colorado House will take place tomorrow. 44 votes are required for the expulsion resolution to succeed, and by most reports the whip count for Democrats is either unanimous or close to it with the obvious exception of Rep. Lebsock.
With House Democrats ready to vote to expel Lebsock, it is House Republicans who are are now in the position of either supporting victims of harassment, or a lawmaker who has been found in an outside investigation to have more likely than not committed all of the harassment that has been alleged. Needless to say political considerations like how this may affect Republican lawmakers down the road are at work, but there is a transcendent moral imperative to act that could leave Republicans in a very bad place depending on what they decide to do tomorrow.
All we can say is, everyone is watching.
UPDATE #5: Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman:
“The legislature’s decision to take disciplinary action and whether or not allegations merit a criminal investigation are separate questions. To suggest otherwise is an attempt to delay and distract from what should be a straightforward process informed by the findings of experienced, objective workplace investigators.
The public rightly expects elected officials to do more than make it through the workday without committing a crime. The potential for a criminal investigation does not remove our obligation to create a work environment free from all forms of harassment.”
UPDATE #4: Statement from the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault:
The Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault applauds the efforts of House Leadership to balance the need for a fundamentally fair process with the need to exercise one of the state’s core principles, accountability. Therefore, we call on the House to vote yes on HR18-1005 to expel Representative Steve Lebsock from the Colorado General Assembly, and we call on the Senate to hold accountable those in their chamber who have been found to have credible complaints against them, and restore our state Capitol as a safe and welcoming place.
As investigations have unfolded, we have heard countless survivors express that the state capitol building no longer feels like a safe place to participate in civic engagement of any kind whether that be testifying in committee, meeting with their elected officials privately behind closed doors, or simply getting onto the buildings elevators with no ability to control who they might have to share that elevator with. Survivors have described the Statehouse as a hostile environment after months of investigations have produced little to no consequences for cases of sexual misconduct that resulted in findings of responsibility. For any survivor who has reported sexual victimization, it is imperative that disclosures be taken seriously and that those who have caused harm be held accountable. Failure to acknowledge and address sexual harassment conveys both the message that the behavior is acceptable and that reporting harassment does nothing to effectively end it.
When elected officials in positions of power commit sexual harassment, this affects not only the survivor but also the entire community and state. The State Capitol is a workplace and, in this historic moment, all of Colorado is looking to the General Assembly to set a tone and standard for accountability in the workplace. The cornerstone of a successful harassment prevention strategy is the consistent and demonstrated commitment of senior leaders to create and maintain a culture in which harassment is not tolerated. The process that has been set in place by the General Assembly itself to investigate complaints has been followed and it is now the responsibility of the General Assembly to act on the findings by the investigators.
UPDATE #3: Denver7 reports as everyone tries to make sense of today’s bizarre GOP-engineered scrambling of the process of investigating sexual harassment in the Colorado General Assembly:
McCann’s office said it had not received the request from Grantham as of 11:30 a.m., though Grantham said his office had sent the request over.
Colorado has two criminal statutes that could be used in such a prosecution, but sexual harassment is not a criminal offense.
Prosecutors would likely have to charge any lawmaker with criminal sexual assault or unlawful sexual contact, a class 1 misdemeanor in most cases and a class 4 felony if the person uses force, intimidation or a threat to make the contact. Another option would be to charge them with harassment, a class 3 misdemeanor. There is a civil statute for sexual harassment. Grantham noted in the press conference, “I’m not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to be one,” but said legislative counsel had been working on the issue.
UPDATE #2: 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman points out an obvious problem with Senate President Kevin Grantham’s plan to ditch the agreed process for the higher bar of a criminal investigation–that’s not how it’s supposed to work:
CO constitution specifically describes #COleg expulsion as a separate process from a criminal prosecution:
“…punishment for contempt or disorderly behavior shall not bar a prosecution for the same offense.”
Senate R’s propose expulsion should be contingent on conviction.#9NEWS pic.twitter.com/Aow811g0ii
— Brandon Rittiman (@BrandonRittiman) March 1, 2018
UPDATE: Denver Post’s Gold Dome troika reports:
Colorado House Republicans on Thursday tried to invoke a little-used House rule to postpone the expulsion vote of Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock and establish an Ethics Committee to review the sexual harassment complaints against him.
But the motion was shot down by House Speaker Crisanta Duran, a Denver Democrat, and an attempt to overrule her was defeated along party lines.
The tense exchange Thursday morning saw Rep. Yeulin Willett, R-Grand Junction, pleading with his colleagues to give lawmakers more time to determine whether Lebsock should be expelled. A vote to remove him from office is scheduled for Friday, just three days after an independent investigation’s findings were announced. The vote requires a two-thirds vote, or 44 of 65 lawmakers, to succeed, and a preliminary Denver Post tally shows many lawmakers remain undecided or refuse to say ahead of Friday how they’ll vote.
We are working on obtaining details of what is occurring at the state capitol right now as the crisis over widespread sexual harassment by legislators in both chambers and parties continues to unfold. This morning, House Republicans attempted and failed to sideline the expulsion resolution against Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock:
It is outrageous that House Republicans are proposing new processes at the 11th hour after sitting on their hands for three months. We’ve followed the process in the rules. It’s time for us to do our jobs and make these tough decisions. #coleg #copolitics
— Rep. Chris Kennedy (@Kennedy4CO) March 1, 2018
And that’s not the end of it–moments ago, Senate President Kevin Grantham reportedly called for a new investigation into sexual harassment at the capitol led by the Denver District Attorney Beth McCann. This is problematic for a number of reasons, including the fact that sexual harassment is a civil matter not a criminal one–and the likelihood that McCann would have to recuse herself from any investigation as a former legislator who knows many of the parties involved.
The situation remains highly volatile as of this writing, and we’ll update with more information as it becomes available. But we’re sorry to report that the course of events is not leaning toward accountability, and that’s the decision of one party. We’re genuinely shocked at how badly Republican leadership in both chambers appears to be handling this.