A desperate tone filled the chambers at the state capitol this week; many wondering what will happen to the legislators accused of sexual assault. A vote on Friday afternoon, after hours of heavy and heartfelt testimony from both sides of the aisle, resulted in most members supporting expulsion of Rep. Steve Lebsock (Thornton).
The accounts of the five women who made official complaints about the actions of Rep. Lebsock were all found credible this week by a third party independent investigator.
On Tuesday, the details of the two month investigation were revealed in a confidential document provided to the legislature. By Wednesday, a redacted version of the document was leaked to the press and public. The 35-page brief, detailed eleven offenses allegedly committed by Rep. Lebsock. He was accused of soliciting women for sex and subsequently retaliated against those women and his colleagues when these accusations were brought to light.
While no criminal charges were brought against the representative, the investigation at large has tested the credibility of a workplace harassment policy that tries to balance victims' privacy concerns with transparency in government. Some criticized the process as opaque and claimed that it lacks consistent enforcement standards and pushed for standards that would be typical in a criminal case.
Criticism of the process was championed by Republicans in the House, some of whom believed that only the voters have the authority to remove Rep. Lebsock from office. Yet, that opinion represented a small minority of members.
Rep. Lebsock, on Friday evening, was expelled from office on a bipartisan vote of 52-9. Minutes before the final vote was taken, Rep. Lebsock changed his voter affiliation from Democrat to Republican in one final blow to House Leadership.
Right now, there is not certainty regarding when that registration becomes effective. Questions remain about whether a county clerk needs to take action and regarding the rules about expulsion.
Rep. Lebsock becomes the first Colorado House member expelled since 1915, when Rep. William Howlett was ejected after he perjured himself in a bribery investigation.
Hoping for better days again. Until next time!
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