Colorado Senate Republicans have a new sexual harassment problem to sort out, its third this session. Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, released a statement Thursday evening saying she was harassed by Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, and her claims were substantiated by a third-party investigator.
Lontine said she filed a formal complaint in November but invoked her right to confidentiality under the legislature’s workplace harassment policy.
She spoke up Thursday and said a report last month found she was more credible than Crowder and her allegations were “more likely than not” to be true. Bente Birkeland of KUNC was the first to report Lontine’s allegation.
“When other sexual harassment accusations began to focus public attention on the culture at the Capitol, I reflected on my own experiences and filed a formal complaint against State Sen. Larry Crowder,” Lontine said in her statement. “The complaint detailed unwanted physical contact on the floor of the House of Representatives and an inappropriate sexual comment. A third-party investigation of the complaint supported my accusations.
“I hoped the matter could be handled privately, that Sen. Crowder would acknowledge that his actions were unacceptable, that he would accept an appropriate punishment and that the investigation would be a part of the record should a pattern of behavior exist or present itself.”
She said she met with Crowder and Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, this week, and “Sen. Crowder expressed little remorse and he didn’t take responsibility for his actions. Fearing my continued silence would enable attempts to gloss over this serious issue, I have chosen to speak up because the public needs to know.”
Crowder told Colorado Politics he arranged the meeting, requesting it from House Speaker Crisanta Duran. He and Grantham met with Lontine and Duran in Duran’s office.
He said one instance, which he doesn’t remember, happened in 2015 on Veterans Appreciation Day. He gave a speech on the floor and ended by encouraging people to hug a veteran. He’s a veteran, and Lontine said she hugged him and he touched her on the bottom, he said.
Crowder said he reviewed video from the floor that day and didn’t find any place where he interacted with Lontine.
In a second incident last year, at a dinner with other legislators and a medical group, he was offered a cocktail. Crowder told Colorado Politics he doesn’t drink, but he has a one-liner he has used for about five years to decline, in a jovial way, when people offer: “No thanks, it affects my performance.”
Lontine, he said, inferred he meant sexual performance.
“I’ve been saying that for a while,” Crowder said. “Nobody else has complained, but I guess I shouldn’t say that anymore.”
He said he met with an investigator in November, and this week he met with Lontine and apologized for making the remark about his perfomance, which she accepted, Crowder said.
Lontine said in an interview Thursday night, his apology wasn’t sincere, and she didn’t buy that he didn’t know what he was saying about performance.
“I know what I heard,” she said. “And I know what I felt.
Crowder said he didn’t remember intentionally touching Lontine.
“I can’t apologize for something that didn’t happen,” he said. “I can’t say I didn’t bump into her on the floor or something, because I don’t remember. I certainly wasn’t my intention for something like that to happen.”
Lontine said she tried to shake Crowder’s hand after Monday’s meeting, but he only offered a fist bump.
“I basically like Larry,” she said. “I’m not happy with him right now.”
She said she wanted him to acknowledge what he did and apologize for it. She also wanted a paper trail, in case any more allegations from other women arose about Crowder.
“And I wanted him to get some continuing education to learn how to behave when he’s around women,” she said.
Crowder becomes the fifth legislator to stand accused since November. Sens. Randy Baumgardner and Jack Tate, both Republicans, have been investigated in the upper chamber, and Reps. Paul Rosenthal and Steve Lebsock, both Democrats, have stood accused in the House.
Rosenthal was cleared of charges last month. House leaders said the charge against him was made before he was a legislator. An investigation found charges against Baumgardner to be credible, and Senate Democrats have called for his ouster.
This story was updated to elaborate that Rosenthal won’t face further action on the allegation.