Colorado legislators last week voted overwhelmingly to kick out State Representative Steve Lebsock, a Democrat, after five women had accused him of eleven total instances of sexual harassment. To say Lebsock did not go gentle into that good night is an understatement.
One of the accusers was a colleague and fellow Democrat, Rep. Faith Winter, who claimed that Lebsock “acted aggressively” toward her when she turned down his sexual advances during an end-of-session party in 2016. She claimed that he grabbed her elbow, causing her to feel threatened. Lebsock denies the allegations of all of the women, and claimed that he was being railroaded out of his seat to help his accuser, Winter, win a state Senate seat in November. So vigorous was Lebsock in his defiance that two other Democrats, Assistant House Majority Leader Rep. Alec Garnett and Rep. Matt Gray, announced in speeches that they had been wearing bulletproof vests in the chamber for weeks in response to his threats.
No, Steve Lebsock didn’t order a hit. He was more creative. To enact his revenge on his party for making him Colorado’s Al Franken, he formally switched his party registration from Democrat to Republican just minutes before the state House expelled him. As a result, Republicans, rather than Lebsock’s original party, get to fill the vacancy left by Lebsock’s expulsion.
Of course, nothing says that the Colorado GOP couldn’t treat this technical maneuver as the petty payback it is, and in the interests of comity and fairness, let Democrats choose who will fill Lebsock’s seat by allowing Democratic governor John Hickenlooper to appoint his replacement. Nah! Colorado Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hays said a vacancy committee would meet later this month to pick Lebsock’s replacement, saying,
“Statute clearly assigns our vacancy committee the authority and responsibility to fill this seat. After careful consideration, we concluded it would be dereliction of duty to punt the appointment to Gov. John Hickenlooper. We owe it to the people of House District 34 to give them the experience of ethical representation, which the Democrats, when they controlled the seat, signally failed to provide.”
The rationalization for this argument is that the Democrats had known about Lebsock’s harassing conduct all along, and covered it up before the #MeToo fervor struck. Of course, if the Democrats knew, it’s likely that his Republican colleagues knew as well.
Rocky Mountain Yecchh, as John Denver might say.
This is an all-round ethics botch:
1 There was a report by an investigator regarding the allegations, but no formal hearing or what would normally be called due process. This episode was one more example of the #MeToo presumption of guilt principle.
2. In the session debating Lebsock”s fate, the report was so thoroughly redacted that much of it was incoherent. Rep. Winter, who was one of lebsock’s accusers, argued, “How much do they want victims to go through in order to seek justice?….That confidentially is designed to protect the survivors.”
Those accusing someone of sexual misconduct should have two choices: give the accused a chance to directly rebut their claims in fair hearing, or not make the accusations at all. There can be no due process if the “jury,” in this case the legislature, can’t see all of the evidence and if the accused can’t respond to it directly.
3. Let’s ditch the prejudicial use of the term “survivors” in sexual harassment cases. They are complainants, accusers, or alleged victims. Sexual harassment never killed anyone. Everyone “survives” it.
4. Winter, as one of the accusers, should have been recused from any participation in Lebsock’s ouster.
5. Lebsock sounds like one hell of a guy, doesn’t he? But even scum deserves due process. I don’t blame him for being angry. I do blame him for using the legislative process and the vacancy replacement process to wreak personal revenge. This is signature significance for a petty, untrustworthy public official who puts his own needs above the good of the people. Good riddance.
6. The Republicans taking advantage of this windfall by becoming the agents of Lebsock’s vendetta is irresponsible and unfair. They should have foiled Lebsock and allowed the Democratic governor to replace a legislator who was elected as a Democrat.
I used to give a yearly legislative ethics seminar in Colorado Springs for newly elected state legislators. A few years ago, without explanation, the sponsoring organization decided to “go in a different direction.”
See what happens?
Pointer: Tim Levier
13 thoughts on “#MeToo Ethics Fiasco In Colorado: The Vengeful Frankened Democrat”
Somewhere about 2/3rds of the way through, you switched to “Lebcock” instead of “Lebsock”. I’ll say nothing further and leave the low hanging fruit exactly where they’ve grown on the tree.
I thought I might have done that, but decided that I was imagining it. Thanks.
Oh, did I neglect to mention that in addition to changing his party, he also changed his name?
“You changed your name TO Latrine?”
Hell hath no fury like a…wait…WHAT??
Democrats lost a Seat due to their feminazi nutbuggery. Good!
“3. Let’s ditch the prejudicial use of the term “survivors” in sexual harassment cases. They are complainants, accusers, or alleged victims. Sexual harassment never killed anyone. Everyone “survives” it.”
Yes, let’s – in honor of the facts you cited, Jack.
Kill the hype. Melt the snowflake-ism. Disarm the weaponized-rhetoric partisans. I want a t-shirt that says something like, “I survived the (harassment, microaggression, #MeToo) epidemic of ‘survivors’.“
This brings up a few questions:
1. What kind of “due process” is ethically required for the court of public opinion to declare that someone has committed a certain offense?
2. What kind of “due process” is required for a State legislature to fairly vote out one of their own? It certainly can’t be the same level required to get a judgment against someone in a court of law, so what should it be? Somewhere in between the level of due process of the justice system and the level at which the public can rightly shame and condemn a person?
How many accusers must there be for the public to fairly judge that someone is likely a harasser? If 5 isn’t enough, then that rules out Bill Clinton, who was only accused by 3 different women. Cosby’s accusers nearly hit triple digits, and I think we all agree that was enough for us to make a rational judgment about his culpability.
“hat kind of “due process” is required for a State legislature to fairly vote out one of their own?”
A formal hearing meeting the following minimum conditions:
1. The “jury” (the legislature in this case) sees a full (non-redacted) report from the investigators
2. The “jury” sees ALL of the evidence
3. The accused has a chance to directly rebut the accusers claims
4. A “jury” where any members happen to also be accuser, they recuse themselves from the decision.
“What”, not “hat”
How many accusers must there be for the public to fairly judge that someone is likely a witch?
I think the answer to 1. is that ethically no one should lend credence to the court of public opinion. First, because it doesn’t and can’t have any standards of due process; and second, because it often isn’t even the actual public opinion, just the loudest voices. (Trump lost soundly in the court of public opinion, but people were a lot more forgiving in the voting booth.)
So, that is to say, if you find an accuser credible based on the facts that you know, you’re well within your rights to take personal action to avoid the harasser, not hire the harasser, not vote for the harasser, etc. That may lead to them being unable to find work or being voted out, but as a consequence of market/voter forces, not as a “sentence.” But to suggest that organizations or government bodies should act punitively without a trial or unbiased investigation or election is wrong.
To that end, I think the answer to 2. would be conviction in a court of law, or by a similarly impartial and diligent ethics committee, unless the body has something in place that would trigger a special election. It hardly seems right for representatives to be acting on their personal judgement or what they’re guessing is public opinion to override what people actually voted for.
“To that end, I think the answer to 2. would be conviction in a court of law, or by a similarly impartial and diligent ethics committee, unless the body has something in place that would trigger a special election. It hardly seems right for representatives to be acting on their personal judgement or what they’re guessing is public opinion to override what people actually voted for.”
Now there’s a debate that I have never deeply meditated upon and I am a Constitutional devotee. The answer is probably very simple and once someone tells me, I’ll probably be embarrassed, but maybe it is up for discussion:
Is the ability of a legislature to kick out one of its own written in to governmental frameworks:
1) Tempered by the requirement that a legislator must be convicted in a court of law so that legislatures can’t start chucking out political opponents willy-nilly…
2) to remind in principle that such a duly convicted legislator is not granted immunity by their election
It seems to me that the ONLY place an elected can be rightly tried is in the legislature. Hm. Not sure. This is brainstorming.
Jack, what’s the obvious answer I’m missing?
“…because it often isn’t even the actual public opinion, just the loudest voices. (Trump lost soundly in the court of public opinion, but people were a lot more forgiving in the voting booth.)”
Did you contradict yourself there?
Trump lost soundly in the court of progressive public opinion; I think his election shows not so much in non progressive area of the country.