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New Investigation Concludes Sen. Baumgardner Created Offensive Work Environment At Capitol

In Capitol Coverage, Featured

An investigation determined that eight people’s allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior from Sen. Randy Baumgardner were credible. The findings, by Littleton-based Alternative Dispute Resolution Inc., an independent firm, are in addition to earlier allegations a separate company found to have more likely than not occurred. Image: Sen. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs.

The ADR report covers two separate complaints. For one of them it said Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Republican, created “an intimidating, offensive, and hostile work environment” for five non-partisan Senate staffers in 2016, and “substantially interfered” with one woman’s work performance. The report found it credible that he also had a nickname associated with his behavior, the “boob grabber.”

 

“I find Baumgardner engages in an unsettling pattern of inappropriate and offensive behavior toward women consistent with his reputation described by [two witnesses],” stated investigator Kathryn Miller with ADR.

A former Republican lawmaker who wanted to be anonymous in the report, told the investigator, the alleged  nickname was common knowledge in the legislature, “reflecting how his hands brush against a woman’s breasts after a hug or when he puts his arms around her shoulders and under her breast.”

The lawmaker also alleges that he witnessed Baumgardner hug female lobbyists in a way that appeared too “tight and/or clingy” and that it made him feel personally uncomfortable. However, he said he never observed Baumgardner grab a woman’s breast.

A second complaint was found credible that Baumgardner acted inappropriately with former intern Megan Creeden, but said it didn’t substantially interfere with her work environment because it was limited to two incidents.

“I find it particularly inappropriate and distasteful that Baumgardner, an elected official, would use his public status and access to young women to make them uncomfortable and uneasy, by in this case making a sexual “naughty dream” innuendo to a woman half his age whom he had met once,” stated Miller.

Baumgardner also allegedly pressured Creeden to drink with him in his office on one occasion: “At the very least, once she declined his invitation to come to his office, he should have let it go. His persistence reflects his use of power to attempt to persuade her.”

Report’s Release Raises Questions On Timing Of Expulsion Vote

The report is dated March 30, 2018, Good Friday, a day off for legislators and staff. The following Monday, April 2, the ADR investigator, Kathryn Miller confirmed to our sources that she had submitted her findings to Senate Secretary Effie Ameen. That was the same day Republican Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, who controls the chamber’s calendar, scheduled  an unexpected vote on a Democratic resolution to expel Baumgardner after weeks of pressure from Democrats to do so.

Yet the additional details were not considered in the expulsion vote, only the findings of a single investigation that concluded  Baumgardner more likely than not grabbed and slapped a former legislative aide’s buttocks. While Ameen had the new findings, the investigations were still considered to be open until April 11 because the investigator stated Baumgardner was refusing to be interviewed. She said his actions held up the release of the report by about a month.

The expulsion vote failed mostly along party lines, with Republicans questioning the validity of the evidence presented.

Ameen finally released the latest report to the accusers on April 19. They then shared it with us, which is allowed under the legislature’s workplace harassment policy.

Ameen commissioned ADR to investigate the allegations against Baumgardner after Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham, and Holbert, criticized the previous investigation, which was conducted by the Employers Council. That company completed the first investigation into Baumgardner as well as investigations into other sexual harassment allegations against Sens. Jack Tate and Larry Crowder — both Republicans — as well as former Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock. Those allegations were found credible, too.

New Allegations Against Baumgardner Backed Up By Witnesses

ADR investigator Kathryn Miller kept most of the names confidential in the latest report.

“The request for confidentiality comes from the public nature of this particular workplace and genuine concerns of retaliation, and does not impact the credibility of the witnesses,” stated Miller.

A male staffer who filed one of the complaints alleges Baumgardner gave his female colleague unwanted daily attention throughout the 2016 legislative session and created a hostile and offensive work environment. He alleges that he once saw Baumgardner leering at his colleague’s buttocks from a copy machine outside of the enrolling room where she was working.

Three other staffers said they also witnessed inappropriate behavior and allege that Baumgardner made them feel uncomfortable, was a distraction, and made it difficult for some of them to do their jobs. They said he was the only senator to ever spend time in the enrolling room, a somewhat private area where bills are processed.

“I find it credible that Baumgardner spent his time in the Enrolling Room in 2016 in order to focus attention on Victim,” stated the investigator, Miller. “I find it made Victim uncomfortable when Baumgardner brought her food she did not request, and attempted to engage her in small talk.”

The female staffer said Baumgardner showed up at her second job, at a bar near the Capitol, after he found out she worked there.

“For a Senator to seek out and follow a low level staffer to another place of employment would likely cause anxiety as to his intentions and discomfort as reported by Victim,” Miller wrote. “I find it credible his staring at her as he was leaving the bar was “discomfiting” as she reports. The scenario certainly had a negative impact on her coworkers as well.”

Her coworkers told the investigator that they feared retaliation and didn’t know how to respond to the unwanted attention their colleague was receiving. Some encouraged her to file a complaint, but she said she was intimidated. Staffers said they removed an extra chair from the enrolling room that Baumgardner would sit in to discourage him from lingering there, but claim that it didn’t change his behavior.

One staffer said the Senate is burdened by inaction and there’s “a perception that nothing happens if complaints like this are reported. It makes people fearful and unwilling to come forward.”

Another wondered, “Will anything change from this investigation?”

A third staffer said she believes the woman spoke to other people higher up, but nothing was done about her concerns.

The ADR investigator stated that she tried to interview an individual who allegedly received complaints: “This witness did not return my calls and emails.”

Baumgardner’s Response  

The investigator added Baumgardner’s responses in a separate addendum to the report dated April 16, but it did not change her findings and she said she found his credibility to be “significantly compromised.”

He denies  “parking” himself in an extra chair. He denies making anyone uncomfortable and said lawmakers went into the enrolling room “all the time” to talk to non-partisan staff. He denies focusing attention on one woman or bringing her plates of food.

He also said he went to the bar to watch rugby after he and the female staffer discussed it and said she essentially invited him to watch games. He denies leering at her buttocks.  He provided three witnesses who said he was professional in their dealings with them at the state Capitol. His current aide Cheryl Palm said she thinks the complaints are politically motivated and he’s an easy target because he hugs people.

Miller said all of the other witnesses with knowledge of those situations confirm the same set of facts which contradict Baumgardner’s statements. The former Republican legislator said senators do not typically go into the enrolling room.

“In all the years a former lawmaker was in the legislature he recalls no time when he ever had a reason to speak to anyone in the Enrolling Room,” stated Miller.

Based on her own direct observation, the investigator said Baumgardner’s statement that he couldn’t have leered at the woman’s buttocks was untrue.

“Baumgardner was adamant that one cannot see into the Enrolling Room from the Xerox machine,” Miller wrote. “He said it is ‘impossible.'”

So she came to the Capitol to walk through the area and wrote: “Far from impossible, I was able to easily see into the Enrolling Room.”

A former employee of the bar contacted the investigator to say the bar did not purchase the rights to air rugby games in 2016.

Baumgardner also denied acting inappropriately with former intern Creeden, and said he would never make a sexual innuendo to her or anyone else. The investigator said he had no explanation as to why she would make up such a conversation.

The latest findings are in addition to eight former and current GOP staffers who told us they have either experienced first hand, witnessed or were aware of complaints about Baumgardner dating back to 2009.

We have not yet discussed the results of the investigation with Senate President Grantham but in a previous interview we asked him about the “boob grabber” nickname. He said it was the first he’d ever heard of it, and said he’s never been aware of any concerns about Baumgardner: “And I’ve been in leadership since 2012.”

Holbert echoed that sentiment in a separate earlier interview.

“I’m impressed with the level of professionalism of people in this building, especially in the chamber, these kinds of things I just don’t see or hear,” Holbert said.

In her findings of fact, investigator Miller said changes to the workplace harassment policy should be considered to strengthen the integrity of the investigation process and the resulting remedies.

“Even when other legislators see or are even impacted by the behavior themselves, witnesses perceive nothing is done to stop it,” she wrote.

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.