For the first time since 1915, the Colorado House of Representatives will vote to expel a member of the legislature. After an external investigator deemed credible 11 allegations of sexual misconduct against Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock, House Majority Leader KC Becker introduced a resolution for expulsion on which the House will vote Friday.
“Representative Lebsock’s pattern of egregious harassing conduct violated the Workplace Harassment Policy of the General Assembly and is unbecoming of a member of the House of Representatives,” the resolution reads. “Lebsock’s conduct has also undermined public confidence in the House of Representatives.”
In a letter sent to House members (and shared with 5280) on Tuesday afternoon, Becker noted that she reviewed the report from an outside investigator—Michele Sturgell of the Employers Council—and “found the content of the report to be both serious and egregious in nature.” Her letter also outlines the process by which the House will move to expel Lebsock. On Thursday, March 1, House members will hold a joint meeting before discussing the matter privately within their respective caucuses. On Friday morning, the resolution will be heard on the House floor, during which Lebsock will be given an opportunity to address the body. The 65-member chamber will need a two-thirds majority vote (44 votes) in order to expel Lebsock. The Democrats control 37 House seats.
On Tuesday evening, Becker distributed to all House members a detailed memo summarizing the three-month-long investigation into the allegations against Lebsock. According to the memo, which was shared with 5280 on Tuesday evening, Becker’s recommendation to expel Lebsock is “based on the report, which demonstrates a pattern of offensive and objectionable conduct…as well as Rep. Lebsock’s antagonistic and retaliatory behavior toward parties involved in the investigation preceding and during the investigation process.” Becker also says she distributed a redacted version of the investigator’s report to all House members.
According to the memo, one of the investigation’s key points focused on an interaction between Lebsock and Democratic Rep. Faith Winter (referred to as “Complainant A” in the memo), who alleges Lebsock made inappropriate and aggressive sexual advances toward her at a June 2016 end-of-session party. According to the summary of the findings, Lebsock pursued a sexual encounter with Winter at the party after learning that her husband was away. The investigator found it “more likely than not” that after Winter repeatedly rejected his lewd advances, Lebsock tried to grab her elbow. The investigators found it “more likely than not” that Lebsock also made similar advances toward four other complainants dating back to 2014. Lebsock denies the allegations. Lastly, the memo states that investigators found it “more likely than not” that Lebsock retaliated against his accusers and attempted to sue two complainants, including Winter.
Becker’s communications director, Dean Toda, sent 5280 copies of a February correspondence between Becker and Lebsock, in which Lebsock claims that Winter violated the the Colorado General Assembly sexual harassment policy by making “false complaints” against him. In the correspondence, Lebsock also claims that Sturgell, the external investigator from Employers Council, showed bias, unprofessionalism, and was retaliatory against him.
On Tuesday, Lebsock told reporters at the Capitol that he would fight the resolution and would not be expelled, saying: “I’m not guilty. I’ve done nothing wrong. I have never sexually harassed anyone.” He also alleged that the resolution to expel him is a coordinated effort to protect Winter, who will be on the ballot for a key state senate seat in November. Moreover, Lebsock has also repeatedly pointed to a polygraph test that he took in December—a test he paid for—that, he says, proves his innocence.
In Becker’s memo from Tuesday evening, she writes: “Rep. Lebsock’s denials are not credible and his arguments that the complainants lied and are lodging a coordinated and politically motivated series of complaints are unpersuasive.”
On Wednesday morning, Lebsock re-shared a January YouTube video on Twitter, in which he claims to tell “the true story” about himself and the allegations against him.
I was asked by the interviewer in the video…What do you think will happen next? My response, "they will double down and triple down". See my specific responses here. #copolitics #coleg https://t.co/6LQrCLG0z2
— Steve Lebsock (@RepLebsock) February 28, 2018
In the 13-minute video (which you can watch above), Lebsock says that members of his own party were calling for his resignation before he even read news reports about the allegations. He repeatedly refers to the investigation as a “smear campaign.”
When asked what’s next for him, Lebsock says, “I’m going to continue fighting for the people of Colorado, like I’ve always done.” Lebsock is currently campaigning for Colorado State Treasurer, and shows no signs of abandoning his attempt.
In the state Senate, two Republicans—Randy Baumgardner and Jack Tate—are also facing allegations of sexual misconduct, which investigators from Employers Council deemed credible. Baumgardner resigned as head of the Senate Transportation Committee earlier this month, but said he will not step down as a senator. Democratic senators also introduced a resolution for his expulsion, it has not been introduced by Republican leaders, who have repeatedly questioned the investigations. A letter signed by Senate President Kevin Grantham and other GOP leaders last week stated that the Employer Council’s work had “inaccuracies, bias, conflicts of interest, and inconsistencies.” Grantham has since said that he’s been in contact with the Employer Council and that he’s encouraged about moving forward with the organization.
Because the effort to expel Lebsock will fail without Republican support, Becker says that she’s unsure if she has the votes. But she reiterated to reporters on Tuesday that the General Assembly has a responsibility to hold its members accountable. “It is our responsibility to hold our members to higher ethical standards than what I think Rep. Lebsock was demonstrating,” she said.