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Colorado Sen. Larry Crowder Accused By Fellow Lawmaker Of Sexual Harassment

Credit to Colorado Senate Republicans
Sen. Larry Crowder

Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, is the latest lawmaker to be named publicly in allegations of sexual misconduct.

His accuser, Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, cited two incidents. She said Crowder pinched her buttocks and made an inappropriate sexual comment. She formally complained on Nov. 30, 2017, and in January an outside investigation found the allegations to be credible.  


Under the General Assembly’s workplace harassment policy, Senate and House leadership determine the consequences for credible allegations against legislators in their respective chambers. Lontine did not ask for disciplinary action, but outlined next steps she hoped would happen. She asked that he receive sexual harassment training and convey a “sincere recognition of inappropriate behavior.”

At a meeting on Monday (Feb. 5, 2018) attended by Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham and Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran, Lontine claimed that’s not what happened. She said Crowder apologized, but did not admit to doing anything wrong.


“I think if Sen. Crowder had acknowledged his behavior and apologized to me about his behavior, and taken some personal responsibility for it, we would not be sitting here,” Lontine said. “I think the public wants to know what’s going on down here so I’m holding us all accountable to the public.”


Crowder denies the allegations in Lontine’s complaint and disputes her version of the meeting.


“I offered Representative Lontine an apology, and it was a sincere apology, in an effort to show respect for her perspective and restore the cordial working relationship we have had,” Crowder said in a written statement. “Representative Lontine accepted my apology, we shook hands and I believed the matter was concluded. I'm not going to speculate about why she now wants to make this into a press event, despite my good faith effort to understand her viewpoint and make amends. I consider the matter resolved and will continue to do the work my constituents sent me here to do.”


Lontine decided to file her complaint after the national #metoo movement and reading the stories we broke about sexual harassment at the state Capitol last November. She said she also spoke to another woman who had similar allegations against Crowder.


“I was concerned that this was a pattern of behavior and I wanted there to be a record and I want it to stop. I filed it so if other women have had this happen to them, there is some level of comfort that they can be taken seriously,” said Lontine.


Lontine, alleges Crowder pinched her buttocks during a joint legislative session on Military Appreciation Day in 2015. She alleges that in August of 2017 he made an inappropriate sexual remark to her during a dinner at a health care summit attended by lawmakers and lobbyists in Keystone.


The Employer’s Council investigated the allegations and found them credible in January. The report concluded that Lontine’s allegations more likely happened than not.


The meeting between Lontine and Crowder to discuss the complaint took place in Duran’s office. Crowder brought Grantham to the meeting.


Lontine said Grantham appeared to ignore that investigators found her complaint credible.  


“He sat there, didn’t even look at me or make a comment during this entire encounter,” said Lontine. “I would have liked to have seen him say, ‘I’m sorry this happened to you and we’ll take care of it.’ Something, even an acknowledgement.”


But Grantham said that wasn’t his role in the meeting.


“Both the Speaker [Duran] and I were present in this meeting,” Grantham said. “Neither of us injected ourselves into the conversation between the representative and the senator. We were there as witnesses, maybe facilitators at the most.”


Five other women have told us Crowder has either had sexual conversations with them that made them uncomfortable and/or he touched them in unwanted sexual ways. None wanted to come forward publicly, citing career and other personal reasons. One of them said he repeatedly harassed her inside the Capitol during the 2017 legislative session: “He pulls you close because he can't hear you and then he puts his hand on your ass.”  When asked about this allegation, Crowder declined to comment.


Other Legislators Under Investigation


Two other Senators are facing formal sexual harassment complaints: Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, and Jack Tate, R-Centennial. Baumgardner’s investigation is complete. The investigator from the Employer’s Council wrote that “it appears more likely than not that Baumgardner grabbed and slapped the rear end of a legislative aide during the 2016 legislative session of the Colorado General Assembly on several occasions.” Citing policy, Senate leaders won’t say whether the investigation into Tate has been concluded.


Senate leadership received the results of the Baumgardner investigation a little over a week ago. Grantham said he’s still thoroughly examining the report and hasn’t determined next steps because he wants to be very deliberate. But on Thursday (Feb. 8, 2018), all 16 Senate Democrats called on Baumgardner to resign in light of the investigation’s findings, and the fact that there have not yet been any visible consequences.


“Because of our high profile, we are often seen as examples and it feels like we are setting a poor example to the public,” said Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver.


Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, also has three pending sexual harassment complaints against him. Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield,plans to run a resolution to try to expel him from the chamber after the investigations are complete.


Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.


Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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