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Second Colorado Lawmaker Accused Of Sexual Harassment

By Kelly Werthmann

DENVER (CBS4) - A second Colorado lawmaker is under fire of allegations of sexual harassment. State Rep. Paul Rosenthal (D-Denver) denies the accusations.

Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver
Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver (credit: CBS)

Thomas Cavaness, a political organizer, filed a formal complaint Tuesday saying Rosenthal inappropriately touched him and tried to kiss him at a LGBTQ fundraiser in 2012.

(credit: CBS)

CBS4 obtained a copy of the complaint sent to House Speaker Crisanta Duran.

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CBS4's Shaun Boyd interviews Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran. (credit: CBS)

In it, Cavaness alleges Rosenthal rubbed his shoulders, moved his hands to Cavaness' lower back, grabbed his inner thigh and attempted to kiss him.

At the time of the alleged incident, Rosenthal was not yet a state lawmaker.

Cavaness said in the complaint he and Rosenthal already knew each other, yet he was "creeped out" by the then-candidate's behavior.

However, at the time, he also felt the behavior "was normal for older, gay men." Rosenthal and Cavaness are both openly gay.

"It took me dating good gay men and being around normal, healthy, older gay men to realize that this behavior was not only not normal, but inappropriate," Cavaness said in the complaint.

The #MeToo campaign that became popular last month is what provided Cavaness courage to come forward, according to the complaint.

Rep. Faith Winter (credit: CBS)

Last week, State Rep. Faith Winter came forward about State Rep. Steve Lebsock's alleged sexual harassment. Both are Democrats.

Cavaness said that gave him an "extra kick" to share his experience.

Steve Lebsock
Rep. Steve Lebsock (credit: CBS)

Lebsock has denied those claims.

"I believe that the actions of Paul Rosenthal are inappropriate and need to be investigated," Caveness said in the complaint. "I have no doubt that he has harassed and assaulted others."

A statement released by Rosenthal's attorney, Harvey Steinberg, called the claim "categorically false and slanderous."

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(credit: CBS)

The statement explains Cavaness and Rosenthal have "corresponded regularly via Facebook Messenger," calling the conversations "lighthearted and friendly." The two also met in person earlier this month and, according to the statement, it was "warm and cordial."

The statement by Rosenthal's attorney also said:

"As important as movements like the #metoo campaign are in bringing help to an insidious problem, they are horribly diminished when they ensnare innocent people. Rep. Rosenthal has nothing to hide and would gladly submit to a polygraph test to clear his name. Once this concludes, Rep. Rosenthal hopes to obtain an apology for the defamation he has experienced, which has unfairly distracted from his important work representing his Colorado constituents."

Duran said in a statement the allegations show there is work to do when it comes to sexual harassment policies and reporting at the capitol. She wouldn't comment further as she is investigating the complaint.

Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team as the morning reporter in 2012. After serving as weekend morning anchor, Kelly is now Covering Colorado First for CBS4 News at 10. Connect with Kelly on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @KellyCBS4.

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