by Glen Richardson
The sexual harassment claims that are sweeping the country have also hit the Colorado legislature with claims made against four different legislators including Paul Rosenthal, a Democrat representing House District 9, which includes Glendale and parts of the Cherry Creek Valley.
Rosenthal who is openly gay initially was accused by Thomas Cavaness, a political organizer for Jared Polis, of inappropriately touching him at a political campaign event some time before he was first elected to the legislature in 2012. The Denver Post came to his defense in a lead editorial asserting that they did not believe “anything in Cavaness’ report precludes Rosenthal from remaining in office. The Post noted that the alleged incident occurred before Rosenthal was elected for the first time in November 2012 and questioned what jurisdiction the Speaker’s Office would have in the first place.
The Denver newspaper noted that the two men had exchanged friendly Facebook messages around the time of the campaign event and that Cavaness couldn’t recall when exactly the harassment occurred.
The publicity of the Cavaness claim caused a second complaint to be filed with Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, reported first by Fox 31 Denver News. The man is identified only as “Dan” and asserts he was the roommate of Rosenthal back in 2007 and 2008 when he said Rosenthal made “several inappropriate comments” and that he had appeared unannounced while he was sleeping. He said he wrote the complaint to Duran, stating that he could no longer “remain quiet.”
The second complaint was generally greeted with disbelief and derision. Rosenthal’s attorney Harvey Steinberg remarked, “The only thing more ludicrous than this complaint is that FOX 31 would report it.”
Then on November 17, 2017, it was reported in The Denver Post that sometime earlier Heather O’Donnell, an attorney and former legislative policy aide, complained to her boss, Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, that Rosenthal repeatedly attempted to get her to set up a meeting with her brother saying he found him “attractive” and he could help him professionally.
She declared his actions to be “predatory.” Kraft-Tharp in turn reported it to Duran but O’Donnell declined to file a formal complaint. The Speaker’s Office provided Rosenthal with materials concerning workplace and sexual harassment policies.
Anecdotally, the complaints do not appear to be gaining much traction in the 9th District. Sally Perone indicated, “Rosenthal tried to be introduced to somebody’s brother and said something inappropriate to his roommate a decade ago. Is there any human interchange that is not sexual harassment these days? Perhaps politicians deserve it, but this is really open season on them.”
A local shop owner on Colorado Boulevard who did not wish to be identified stated, “It is the season of the witch. The press giving such exaggerated coverage to claims such as those against Rosenthal do a real disservice to the people who have suffered real sexual assault and harassment. The real claims now get lost among all the clutter. It is a real shame.”
Rosenthal who will be up for re-election in 2018 for his final term has always received above 60% in his prior election efforts for the District seat.