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Faith Winter violated the Colorado Senate’s ethics guidelines and committee rules
Faith Winter violated the Colorado Senate’s ethics guidelines and committee rules

The Independents – Just politics, no agenda.

Democratic Sen. Faith Winter violated Colorado Senate ethics rules when she appeared drunk while attending a town hall meeting in Northglenn earlier this year, a legislative committee convened to investigate her conduct ruled Monday.

The Colorado Senate Ethics Committee concluded 5-1 that Winter, the chamber’s assistant majority leader, failed to meet Senate ethics standards that require her to promote public integrity and public trust. Democrats hold a 3-2 majority on the committee.

The lone no vote came from Senator James Coleman, a Democrat from Denver who will likely ask his colleagues in the coming months to elect him president of the Senate.

The Democrats on the committee who voted that Winter, of Broomfield, violated Senate ethics rules were Senators Julie Gonzales of Denver and Dylan Roberts of Avon. Republican Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen (Monument) and Republican Assistant Senate Minority Leader Bob Gardner (Colorado Springs) also found that Winter violated the rules.

The committee also voted Monday to send a formal report to Senate President Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) to determine how to proceed. It also decided to invite Winter to explain her conduct before the full Senate.

In May, the Northglenn City Council filed an ethics complaint against Winter over her behavior during an April 3 public hearing in the city to discuss a state plan to open a controversial mental health halfway house that could house people convicted of sex crimes.

Winter’s speech was slurred and halting, and she seemed to have difficulty collecting her thoughts.

Officers from the Northglenn Police Department were present at the event and asked Winter not to drive home after the event.

A day after the meeting, Winter announced that she was seeking medical treatment for substance abuse. She also resigned as chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Energy.

Winter was subsequently granted a leave of absence from the legislative session, but returned before the end of the legislative session on May 8.

During the Senate Ethics Committee’s investigation into Winter’s conduct, she admitted to drinking alcohol before the Northglenn incident, but not excessively.

“I expected the meeting to be emotionally charged, so I had a drink before entering the room,” she said in a written statement to the Ethics Committee last month, calling for the complaint to be dismissed.

In her response, Winter referred to the culture of alcohol consumption in the Capitol, saying, “It is used in many ways, including to promote camaraderie and as a coping mechanism.”

“While I regret drinking prior to the April 3 town hall meeting, and I would reverse that decision if I could, I can confidently say that I fulfilled my responsibilities and duties as a Senator,” she wrote. “Northglenn claims I drank alcohol while serving as a Senator, but drinking alcohol while serving as a Senator is so commonplace in this state that it is widely known.”

Winter presented a letter from a doctor stating that she was being treated for substance abuse and was taking medication to control her cravings for alcohol, “and had shown great commitment to achieving her treatment goal.”

Committee members seemed skeptical about parts of Winter’s letter.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

By Everly