Another senator accused of sexual harassment as other investigations drag on

Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, joines Gov. John Hickenlooper and others for the signing of House Bill 1129 on May 8, 2016. Photo by Colorado Senate GOP via Flickr Creative Commons.

Allegations of sexual misconduct continue to rattle the state Capitol this session.

Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, became the fifth lawmaker this session to be publicly accused of sexual misconduct on Thursday night, the same day Democrats made demands that another Senator, Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, should resign following an inquiry that reportedly found sexual misconduct allegations against him to be credible.

Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, filed a formal complaint in November that Crowder made “unwanted physical contact on the floor of the House of Representatives and an inappropriate sexual comment,” according to a statement Thursday.

“I hoped the matter could be handled privately, that Sen. Crowder would acknowledge that his actions were unacceptable, that he would accept an appropriate punishment and that the investigation would be a part of the record should a pattern of behavior exist or present itself,” Lontine said. “But in a meeting this week with Sen. Crowder and Senate President Kevin Grantham, Sen. Crowder expressed little remorse and he didn’t take responsibility for his actions. Fearing my continued silence would enable attempts to gloss over this serious issue, I have chosen to speak up because the public needs to know.”

According to Lontine’s statement, her complaint was submitted to an investigator, who concluded in a report issued in December that she was the “more credible” of the two parties and that her accusations are “more likely than not” to be accurate.

Crowder said on Friday he offered a sincere apology, and mostly denied the allegations.

Crowder said he doesn’t like to drink in public, and often tries to get a drink that looks like liquor. At one party he declined a drink by saying “it affects my performance.” After talking to his wife, he said he can see how this could be misinterpreted. He said in no way did he mean sexual performance.  

Another instance referenced in the statement by Lontine took place on on a Veterans Appreciation Day. Crowder said he has no recollection of inappropriate behavior on this day and wondered if he bumped into Lontine.

“I’m not up here to mess around,” he told The Colorado Independent.

Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, on the Senate floor on the opening day of the 2018 legislative session on Jan. 10. Photo by John Herrick

Following a series sexual harassment allegations brought against at least three senators late last year, including the allegations against Crowder which were made public on Thursday, a group of Senate leaders — Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, and Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver — formed a group to determine what, if any, disciplinary actions should be taken in such cases.

Earlier on Thursday, Senate Democrats called on Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, to resign following allegations that he slapped and grabbed the buttocks of a legislative aide during the 2016 legislative session several times.

The results of an investigation into the allegations against Baumgardner became public over a week ago, when Senate leadership received a report on the results last Tuesday, Jan. 30. But no disciplinary action has yet been taken, and Senate Democrats are demanding quick action in light of the results of the investigation.

“Victims and the public at large deserve a swift, deliberative, and transparent action in response to these allegations,” states a Democratic caucus statement released on Thursday. “Instead, despite having access to the independent investigation’s findings for weeks, Senate GOP leadership has taken no action and said that the public may never know what happens. Good faith efforts by our leadership to move the process forward have been rebuffed and delayed.”

This delay prompted Guzman on Wednesday to remove herself from the group in protest. Guzman said that investigations into allegations should be kept confidential, but once reports on such allegations are completed, action is needed in order to guard the integrity of the process itself, the victim and the Senate.

Democrats are also asking that Baumgardner be stripped of his committee chairmanships. He serves as chair of the Transportation and Capital Development committees and vice chair of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy committee. He is also the lead sponsor on a top-priority bill dealing with transportation funding

Senate President Grantham said on Thursday that a decision regarding any disciplinary action for Baumgardner can be expected “sometime in the near future.”

Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, said there has been no accountability, and she says this makes it difficult for the next woman to come forward.

“It sends a clear message to the rest of the women in this building that if you do come forward with some kind of allegation that has merit, then you will never know the outcome. And I think that silences women,” Fields told The Colorado Independent.

Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, and Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, have also been accused of sexual misconduct and are considered to be still under investigation. Democrats have also called for the resignation of Lebsock, who is running for state treasurer.

Title photo: Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, joins Gov. John Hickenlooper and others for the signing of House Bill 1129 on May 8, 2016. Photo by Colorado Senate GOP via Flickr Creative Commons.