By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4)– Lawmakers say it is time for an overhaul of how sexual misconduct is handled at the state Capitol.
Leadership from both parties and both chambers is launching a comprehensive review of its workplace harassment policies and the review will be public. They’re inviting everyone from employment law experts to victims’ advocates to weigh in.
The move is in response to accusations leveled against four lawmakers, two Republicans and two Democrats, over the last few weeks.
The accusations have rocked the state Capitol where two of the top leadership positions are women, three of the four chiefs of staff are women, most of top lobbyists are women and the body itself is nearly 40 percent women; that’s more than almost any general assembly in the country.
“If there’s any place where this stuff probably shouldn’t be happening or wouldn’t be happening it would be here but it also tells you that it can happen anywhere,” says Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Republican representing Canon City, “It can happen within any organization, public or private, and how we proceed forward from that point is important.”
The review will include whether a neutral third party should be fielding complaints instead of leadership and whether an online reporting system would help.
Grantham says “To give confidentiality; to give that separation from leadership such as myself. Maybe they don’t feel comfortable coming in here. We’ve always had an open door policy. We’ve always had a zero tolerance policy. But, if there’s another method that makes them feel more comfortable, let’s look at those things.”
He says he is barred from discussing whether he’s received complaints. Transparency in the process will also be part of the review along with protections against retaliation and annual training on what constitutes harassment.
“Whatever we need to do regardless of the makeup of the state Legislature, House and Senate, Democrat and Republican, men and women, this is something we all desire to fix,” says Grantham, “We care for this institution and we don’t want the perception that this is institutional here.”
While the review does not address wrongful accusations, Grantham says it’s important that those accused aren’t tried and convicted in the press before an investigation.
One of the lawmakers identified by a reporter was accused by an anonymous woman who did not file a complaint.
“That’s why we have to be very careful what we talk about because we don’t want to be the ones who are judge and jury before we’ve had any opportunity to look at everything,” says Grantham, “It would make it much more conducive to trying to help the situation, to bring some matter of closure to the situation, if we could use the process instead trying it out in the media.”
Lawmakers plan to hold the review before the legistlative session starts the beginning of January.