Sen. Crowder responds to sex harassment claims

VALLEY — State Senator Larry Crowder, a Republican who represents the San Luis Valley and other southern Colorado counties in Senate District 35, on Friday responded to Democratic State Representative Susan Lontine’s allegations of sexual harassment and her belief he did not take sufficient responsibility for his actions.

Crowder responded in a written statement on Friday that he offered Representative Lontine an apology at a meeting he requested with the House Speaker Crisanta Duran at which Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City) was also present to discuss and resolve her complaint, “and it was a sincere apology, in an effort to show respect for her perspective and restore the cordial working relationship we have had.”

He added that at that time Representative Lontine accepted his apology, “we shook hands and I believed the matter was concluded.”

Lontine had filed a confidential complaint against Crowder in November, stating that he pinched her buttocks during a joint legislative session on Military Appreciation Day in 2015 and that in August of 2017 he made an inappropriate sexual remark to her during a dinner at a health care summit in Keystone.

Lontine did not ask for disciplinary action but stated she hoped Crowder would receive sexual harassment training and convey a “sincere recognition of inappropriate behavior.” She said she decided to go public Thursday because she did not believe Crowder had accepted responsibility for his actions during the meeting this week in Duran’s office. She said Crowder apologized, but did not admit to doing anything wrong.

“I think if Sen. Crowder had acknowledged his behavior and apologized to me about his behavior, and taken some personal responsibility for it, we would not be sitting here,” Lontine said. “I think the public wants to know what’s going on down here so I’m holding us all accountable to the public.”

Crowder has denied the 2015 incident and said he reviewed video from the floor that day and didn’t find any place where he interacted with Lontine. Regarding the alleged inappropriate sexual remark, when offered a drink at the 2017 function Crowder, who does not drink, made a joke he said he has used for a while to decline alcohol, “No thanks, it affects my performance.” He said no one else had complained about the remark, and he had not believed his comment at the time was inappropriate.

In his statement on Friday, Crowder said, “I’m not going to speculate about why she now wants to make this into a press event, despite my good faith effort to understand her viewpoint and make amends. I consider the matter resolved and will continue to do the work my constituents sent me here to do.”

(Some of the information for this article came from Capitol Coverage and Colorado Politics.)