Second Colorado lawmaker accused of sexual harassment in new complaint

DENVER -- A second Colorado lawmaker is facing a sexual harassment complaint.

Colorado State Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, is accused of groping a man at a 2012 political event.

At the time, he was a state House candidate who is now in his third term as a Colorado lawmaker for House District 9.

Thomas Cavaness said it happened at a political fundraiser in downtown Denver for Rosenthal in 2012.

"I was standing in the back and he began messaging my shoulders and then his hands dropped and grabbed the small of my back and then my butt," Cavaness said.

Cavaness added that later in the evening, Rosenthal grabbed his inner thigh.

Cavaness said he met Rosenthal a few months beforehand in October 2011 and said Rosenthal became "more and more aggressive" each time they met.

"I can only assume there are likely more victims," Cavaness said. "I have been talking to others who have been politically engaged in Colorado politics and there are several people who are treated inappropriately by Rosenthal and others but were not necessarily willing to come forward."

"I think it's important for people to know men deal with sexual assault as well."

Rosenthal and Cavaness are openly gay.

Since the incident in 2012, the two have talked on Facebook and in person.

“Absolutely, I have corresponded with him. I have wanted a career in Colorado politics, and I was unwilling to come forward, even to him,” Cavaness said.

For almost six years, Cavaness kept his emotions to himself, only telling a few close friends vague details.

“When Faith Winter came out, with her allegations against Steve Lebsock, putting her professional life and her reputation on the line, that’s what gave me the courage to come forward myself," Cavaness said.

"I think that if Faith had not come forward and I had not seen the other victims also come forward, I would likely not have come forward.”

Rosenthal issued a statement saying in part that the claim is "categorically false and slanderous and that the conduct did not happen."

"Mr. Cavaness met Rep. Rosenthal in 2012, at a political fundraiser," according to the statement. "Following that first meeting the two men have corresponded regularly via Facebook Messenger.

"At no time during those conversation has Mr. Cavaness ever indicated any discomfort, anger, or other negative feelings toward Rosenthal. To the contrary, these converstations were lighthearted, friendly, and focused on political news of the day.

"In fact, a recent in-person meeting at the beginning of November was similarly warm and cordial."

With two investigations now ongoing, some say there could be more.

“This isn’t a Democratic or Republican problem, this is a culture problem that's been allowed to exist for decades,” Democratic Rep. Jonathan Singer said.

Singer said the allegations are just the tip of the iceberg. He believes more people will come forward as soon as they feel safe doing so.​

"Given the allegations that have come to light over the past week, it is clear that there is work to do to address concerns about harassment," House Speaker Crisanta Duran said in a statement.

"I am renewing my call for a comprehensive review of the legislature’s harassment policies and procedures, to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all."

Rosenthal is the second state lawmaker in a week to face accusations of sexual harassment. Two women filed formal complaints against Rep. Steve Lebsock this week.

A third woman also accused Lebsock but said she does not plan on filing an official complaint.