DENVER (CBS4/AP) – Colorado’s Republican-led Senate debated a resolution on whether to expel Sen. Randy Baumgardner on Monday.
The Senate voted against expelling a GOP senator accused of inappropriately touching a former legislative aide.
An independent investigation had determined that claims that Baumgardner harassed the former aide were credible. Baumgardner denied wrongdoing.
The Republican from the Sulphur Springs area has been accused of sexual harassment.
The debate is the latest confrontation in the Colorado Legislature over sexual harassment allegations involving several lawmakers that arose with the #MeToo movement.
That movement saw millions of women taking to social media to publicize their experiences with sexual harassment.
In Colorado, Baumgardner, who represents a rural northwest Colorado district, has denied wrongdoing but stepped down as chair of the powerful transportation committee.
A third-party investigator has determined that the former aide’s claims were credible. She said that Baumgardner grabbed and slapped her buttocks on more than one occasion during the 2016 session.
Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham had deemed the case closed and previously refused to allow the expulsion resolution to be introduced.
Democrats argued that the resolution should be debated, in part, to send a message that complaints are taken seriously.
A two-thirds vote, or 23 votes, in the 35-member Senate is needed to expel a member. Republicans hold 18 seats, Democrats 16 and there is one independent.
Baumgardner and Grantham were criticized by Democrats — Baumgartner for his conduct and Grantham for not exacting more severe punishment. Democrats also urged Republican colleagues to take a stand but none immediately took to the podium.
“Either we’re going to empower victims to come forward or we’re going to shame them into silence,” said Sen. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat.
Earlier this year, the State House of Representatives expelled Rep. Steve Lebsock over similar accusations.
The complaints allege he harassed or intimidated five women, including a fellow lawmaker. Lebsock’s ouster came after Arizona Republican Rep. Don Shooter was expelled Feb. 1 over misconduct claims. A California lawmaker resigned.
All told, five Colorado lawmakers have been accused of misconduct in recent months.
Grantham has described some of the anonymous accusations against senators as tantamount to “assault,” and he had urged prosecutors, rather than lawmakers, to investigate harassment complaints at the Capitol.
Grantham has pledged to work with Democrats to produce a new workplace harassment policy for the Legislature. Leaders of the House and Senate were set to discuss a proposal by an outside consultant on Wednesday.
Colorado Republican Sen. Larry Crowder was accused by Democratic Rep. Susan Lontine of sexual harassment. He denied wrongdoing, and the case was closed. On Thursday, Grantham closed an investigation involving Sen. Jack Tate, a suburban Denver Republican, finding complaints against him didn’t rise to the level of harassment.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)