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Colorado lawmaker faces expulsion over sex misconduct claims

February 28, 2018

FILE - In this Jan. 10, 2018 file photo, Colorado State Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, looks on as the Colorado House of Representatives convenes for the start of the 2018 session. Democratic House Majority Leader KC Becker said Tuesday, Feb. 27, that she will recommend that Lebsock be expelled after an independent investigator found sexual harassment complaints against him were credible. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

DENVER (AP) — A lawmaker from Colorado accused of sexual misconduct could face an expulsion vote as early as Friday.

Rep. Steve Lebsock, who represents a suburban Denver district, has been accused of sexually harassing a fellow legislator and four other women. He denies the allegations.

House Majority Leader KC Becker introduced an expulsion resolution late Tuesday, saying an outside investigator had judged 11 harassment allegations against Lebsock to be credible.

Becker called the claims “serious and egregious in nature.”

Complaints and investigations into alleged misconduct are considered confidential under the Colorado Legislature’s workplace harassment policy. Becker said she would release a redacted copy of the Lebsock findings to lawmakers.

Debate on the measure was scheduled for Friday.

If expelled, Lebsock would be the second state lawmaker to be kicked out of office since the #MeToo movement emerged last fall. Millions of women shared their experiences as victims of sexual harassment or assault on social media, prompting a wave of sexual misconduct allegations in statehouses nationwide.

On Feb. 1, the Arizona House voted to expel Republican Rep. Don Shooter after an outside investigator determined he had engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment that created a hostile workplace.

In California, Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza resigned Feb. 22 just ahead of a possible vote to expel him. Mendoza called the investigation into alleged misconduct a farce and said he may run for the seat this fall.

Lebsock, a Democrat, is running for state treasurer and says he will fight expulsion.

“I’m willing to speak with any of my colleagues,” Lebsock said, referring to a 28-page defense he presented to lawmakers about his conduct before the legislative session began in January. “I don’t think I’ll be expelled.”

Colorado House lawmakers from both parties will caucus Thursday to consider the case before taking up the expulsion resolution. A two-thirds vote of the 65-member chamber is needed. Democrats hold 37 seats, including Lebsock’s.

Lebsock’s alleged misconduct involves fellow Democratic Rep. Faith Winter, as well as a former legislative aide and a former lobbyist who also lodged complaints.

Winter alleges that Lebsock acted aggressively toward her when she turned down his sexual advances during an end-of-session party in 2016. She said he grabbed her elbow and that she felt threatened.

Lebsock insisted Tuesday that his party was lining up behind Winter in her bid to win a state Senate seat this November that could challenge the narrow Republican majority in that chamber.

“The last thing I was thinking of when I came forward was politics,” Winter said Tuesday. “My whole goal in coming forward was to make sure this behavior stopped and that women in this building felt safe and felt like their voices were heard.”

The case is one of several involving Colorado lawmakers first reported by Rocky Mountain Community Radio .

Lebsock, another House Democrat and a Senate Republican have either been stripped of committee leadership positions or resigned voluntarily following claims of inappropriate conduct. All have denied wrongdoing.

Rocky Mountain Community Radio has also reported that claims against two other Republican members of the GOP-led Senate were found to be credible but that leadership has not taken action on those complaints.

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