Sen. Randy Baumgardner said he will no longer serve as chairman of a powerful committee in the wake of formal complaints of sexual harassment. He said he volunteered to do so in a conversation with Senate President Kevin Grantham to help put a controversy behind him that has been simmering since November.
“This is painful for me to do so in many ways because I’ve worked on these issues for years," Baumgardner said, as he announced he would no longer lead the Transportation Committee. "I think it’s probably one of the best things I can do."
Baumgardner, of Hot Sulphur Springs, agreed with Grantham, a fellow Republican, to take sensitivity training in the coming weeks. He will not resign altogether as some have called for.
Yet Baumgardner denied any wrongdoing, and he will continue to chair another committee on capital development.
Baumgardner faces two formal complaints from two women alleging several instances of sexual harassment. About two weeks ago, Senate leaders received the results of the first investigation into those complaints.
“Taking all statements to this investigator into consideration, it appears more likely than not that Randy Baumgardner grabbed and slapped the rear end of a legislative aide during the 2016 legislative session of the Colorado General Assembly on several occasions," that investigation stated.
The woman who filed it wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.
In a press conference in his office at the capitol on Tuesday (Feb. 13, 2018) to address the allegations, Baumgardner said the investigation wasn't conducted fairly.
“The allegations made against me in this complaint are not true despite the findings of the investigation. I believe it to be flawed, inaccurate, incomplete and biased," Baumgardner said.
Grantham echoed those remarks in a letter with Majority Leader Chris Holbert, stating concern over "the inaccuracies, bias, conflicts of interest, and inconsistencies we see in the report.”
The woman who filed the complaint responded that she found it “unbelievable” Grantham would criticize the process he has told people to follow: “When you trust in the process you trust what the investigation finds. You trust in a system that had prescribed consequences, not one that Baumgardner comes up with in his head."
For Senate Democrats Baumgardner’s move was too little too late. All 16 Democrats have signed onto a resolution they plan to introduce to expel him. It would require a two-thirds vote on the Senate floor, where Republicans have a one-seat majority.
“Our job is not to question the report, but to question the perpetrator,” said Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, a Democrat.
Sen. Irene Aguilar, another Democrat, added: “You’re saying 'If you give me the results I like, then you’ve done a good report; if you give me the results I don’t like, then you’ve given me a bad report.'”
Grantham blasted the minority leader for pulling herself out of the decision-making process on Baumgardner last week, in a dispute over her role.
“Now that the process has reached its conclusion, they want to change their minds yet again and up the ante," Grantham said. "Such politicization is always inappropriate, especially now that the matter is concluded.”
Baumgardner made a general apology to the second of his formal accusers -- Megan Creeden, a former intern for another lawmaker. She alleges that Baumgardner made an inappropriate sexual comment to her and pressured her to drink with him in his office in 2016. She first made the allegations to us in November. She said she waited until this week to file a complaint when she didn’t see Senate leaders taking action on the Baumgardner case.
“I want to take this opportunity to say, 'Megan if I did anything at all that was offensive to you or suggestive that you thought was offensive I want to apologize to you,'" Baumgardner said.
Baumgardner added that he has paid a price for the allegations.
“Some people believe I haven’t suffered enough consequences,” said Baumgardner. “Some people believe there isn’t enough punishment to be served. Until you’ve walked around in my boots the last four months and you go into the store and people look at you differently or people talk about you differently or people bring up these issues all the time, and you can’t defend yourself because of the confidentiality of these proceedings.”
We have also reported on formal complaints against three other lawmakers, two Republicans and one Democrat. Leaders in the House have called for fellow Democrat Rep. Steve Lebsock to resign. His investigation is still pending.
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