Colorado House speaker dismisses sexual harassment complaint against Paul Rosenthal

DENVER -- The Democratic state House speaker has dismissed a sexual harassment complaint against Democratic Rep. Paul Rosenthal of Denver, finding the alleged incident occurred before Rosenthal took office.

Speaker Crisanta Duran dismissed the complaint by political organizer Thomas Cavaness on Dec. 29 after an investigation by an outside human resources consultant, Rosenthal said in a statement.

In his November complaint, Cavaness claimed Rosenthal improperly touched him at a fundraiser in 2012, when Rosenthal was campaigning for a House seat.

Rosenthal has called the allegations "baseless and false." He was elected in November 2012.

"I have been advised by Speaker Duran that the allegations made against me do not fall within the scope of the General Assembly's workplace harassment policy and, therefore, she has dismissed the complaints," Rosenthal said in a statement. "These matters are officially closed.

"As I’ve maintained all along, I am innocent of any wrongdoing. I’m incredibly appreciative of the support I’ve received from the community, and I look forward to a productive and successful 2018 legislative session serving the people of Colorado.

Duran has declined comment on the case and on another complaint involving Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton, citing confidentiality rules in the Legislature's policy concerning sexual harassment complaints.

Duran, Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham and other top lawmakers are conducting a review of that policy that is aimed at accountability, increasing openness and protecting those who come forward at a time when lawmakers across the country have been forced to resign over sexual misconduct claims.

The lawmakers voted to hire the Legislature's first human resources employee and increase workplace harassment training. They are also considering creating an independent body to investigate complaints.

Cavaness' attorney, Alan Kennedy-Schaffer, said Cavaness was told of the decision in a conference call in which Duran said the complaint fell outside the scope of the Legislature's policy.

Duran noted the dismissal wasn't an indication of innocence or guilt, and that there may be other options for Cavaness to pursue, Kennedy-Schaffer said.

Duran had suspended Rosenthal from his post as vice chair of the House Local Government Committee pending the investigation, which was conducted by a human resources consultant from the Employers Council.

The council offers services in employment law, human resources and other areas.

It wasn't immediately clear if Rosenthal would be reinstated to the post.

Steinberg previously said the Legislature had no formal jurisdiction to handle the complaint because Rosenthal wasn't a member of the House at the time of the alleged incident.

The complaint against Lebsock, who is running for state treasurer, was filed by Democratic Rep. Faith Winter of Adams County concerning an incident in May 2016. Lebsock denies the allegation.

Duran removed Lebsock from his post as chair of the Local Government Committee and called on him to resign after Winter filed her complaint.