Sen. Randy Baumgardner accused of misconduct is sanctioned
The Associated Press
DENVER — A Colorado Republican state senator has been removed from his committee assignments amid new allegations of sexual and workplace harassment.
Sen. Randy Baumgardner, who represents rural northwestern Colorado, was punished after an independent investigator found credible claims by eight people that he created a hostile work environment during the 2016 session.
KUNC-FM first reported the claims and punishment along with earlier allegations that Baumgardner had groped a former legislative aide during the same session. That case led to a failed Senate vote to expel him on April 2.
Senate President Kevin Grantham announced the decision about Baumgardner’s committee assignments in a letter released Thursday.
“It’s never pleasant meting out punishments of this sort to colleagues, but the three of us who were tasked with making this decision are comfortable that it was justified in this case,” Grantham said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert and Democratic Minority Leader Leroy Garcia.
Baumgardner wasn’t at the Capitol Thursday and could not immediately be reached for comment. He has denied wrongdoing.
Colorado lawmakers, like other U.S. statehouses, are grappling with modernizing workplace harassment policies with the rise of the #MeToo movement last fall — a now-global movement publicizing sexual misconduct that has permeated government and a host of other industries.
The Colorado Legislature commissioned an outside harassment policy study after five lawmakers were accused of misconduct.
Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock was expelled in March after being accused of harassing five women, including a fellow lawmaker. Lebsock denied the allegations.
KUNC said an outside investigator had tried to interview Baumgartner between March 7 — well before the expulsion vote — and April 11. Baumgardner told the investigator his attorney was out of the country.
Senate Democrats questioned whether Baumgardner or Republican state Senate leaders had withheld information about the investigation before the failed expulsion vote.
Grantham insisted last week that he had only received the investigator’s report on April 20, and he pledged action against Baumgardner before the 2018 legislative session ends on May 9.
One probe detailed complaints by a former intern that Baumgardner asked her to drink whiskey in his office at the capitol.
The investigator wrote that “Baumgardner was given every opportunity to participate in the investigation and chose not to do so” until April 11.
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With the impending closure of coal mines and power plants in northwest Colorado, Craig officials and river enthusiasts are hoping a long-overlooked natural resource just south of town can help create economic resilience.