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Colorado Lawmaker Alleges Wrongful Restroom Use At Capitol

Bente Birkeland
Capitol Coverage
Women's bathroom for Senate legislators and staff: "Senators and Senate Staff Only, 260, Private."

Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik said she has filed a formal workplace sexual harassment complaint against a fellow senator, Daniel Kagan, alleging that he was inside a restroom designated for female legislators and staff multiple times.

Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton, recounted one incident towards the end of the 2017 legislative session. She said she noticed a man's shoes visible underneath one of the locked stalls and waited to see who it was.

“I confronted him in the bathroom itself and said, ‘What are you doing in here?’" Martinez Humenik said of Kagan. "Then, as we were walking out, I said, ‘It’s not OK for you to be here. I don’t want to see you here again.’”

She also claims she was made aware that two other female staffers had similar experiences.

Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, admitted that he was in the restroom, which is designated for women, but said it only happened once. The restroom is unmarked and is a few feet away from the men’s restroom, which is also unmarked. Kagan said he was new to the Senate at the time and confused.

“I accidentally used the wrong one," he said. "It was embarrassing, and it’s the kind of embarrassing mistake you don’t make twice."

However, another lawmaker -- Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs -- alleged that Kagan was in that same restroom on another occasion in 2017. Hill alleged that he was in the process of unlocking the restroom door for his daughters, aged 6 and 8, during a visit to the Capitol when Kagan exited.

“My girls still come up here," Hill said. "I will no longer let my girls use this bathroom because of this experience.”

Hill said he came forward with his allegation after Kagan, an attorney, stood up for the victims of sexual harassment on the Senate floor on Friday. Kagan was criticizing  the Senate president for saying that a criminal conviction should be the standard for expelling a senator for sexual harassment. Members of the House earlier this month expelled Steve Lebsock, a former Democratic representative, amid allegations of sexual harassment. 

For two weeks, Senate Democrats, including Kagan, have been demanding a resolution be introduced seeking to expel Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, for sexual harassment.

Kagan read from a section of state law that defines sexual assault and "intrusion."

Hill told reporters Monday that he felt the reading crossed a line.

“When Sen. Kagan’s up there slobbering at the microphone giving details on this and that, it was just too much -- the hypocrisy,” said Hill.

Kagan flatly denied Hill's account and said that he never used the Senate women’s restroom more than once.

The Senate restrooms are located inside the Capitol and in a hallway adjacent to the Senate floor. The men’s bathroom doesn’t have a lock. Last session the women’s was accessible using a unisex code or a legislative key card, but staff said at times the lock was broken. Martinez Humenik asked for the code to be changed a few weeks ago and it was.

Kagan went on to call the allegations politically motivated because both Martinez Humenik and Hill are Republicans and some of their own members are under investigation.

“I think it’s rather beneath the dignity of the members of the Senate to try to make something of nothing to try to deflect attention from a serious matter,” said Kagan.

An independent investigation into a formal complaint against Baumgardner found it more likely than not that he had slapped and grabbed a former legislative aides’ buttocks four times during the 2016 legislative session. Baumgardner denies any wrongdoing.

Allegations of sexual harassment against two other senators -- Jack Tate and Larry Crowder, both Republicans -- were found credible in independent investigations. They deny the allegations and Senate leaders have not called for formal consequences.

Baumgardner faces two more complaints in ongoing investigations.

Some Senate Democrats said the allegations against Kagan are a distraction at a time when they are demanding Republicans take action against the senators whose cases have been investigated.

“All it does is further silence women and all it does is further perpetuate the unhealthy environment that we know happens at the Capitol,” said Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver. “And I am angry.”

Martinez Humenik said her complaint is not about deflecting anything but said she wanted to come forward after hearing of Hill's allegation. 

She said she emailed her formal complaint to Senate President Kevin Grantham on Monday. Earlier in the day Grantham told members of the media that Kagan's speech on Friday was despicable, especially given his alleged "frequent" use of the women's restroom.

"He’s gone in there with people in that restroom, people that are now uncomfortable," said Grantham. "You want to talk about an uncomfortable workplace environment or whatever that terminology is. You have people that don’t feel safe going in there without going in with somebody else."

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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