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Colorado Senator Faith Winter violated ethics and committee rules
Colorado Senator Faith Winter violated ethics and committee rules

State Senator Faith Winter speaks during a meeting electing her as assistant majority leader of Colorado Senate Democrats at the State Capitol in Denver on Sept. 8, 2023. (Photo by Kevin Mohatt/Special to The Denver Post)

A legislative committee ruled Monday that Senator Faith Winter violated Colorado Senate ethics rules when she appeared drunk at a public meeting in April.

By a 4-1 bipartisan vote, the Senate Ethics Committee concluded that Winter did not justify the public’s trust in the Legislature when she drank alcohol before attending a contentious town hall meeting in Northglenn. Winter, a Broomfield Democrat and the Senate’s assistant majority leader, had previously apologized for her behavior at the meeting, where her speech appeared slurred. After the meeting, police intervened to help her find a ride home.

Democratic Senators Julie Gonzales and Dylan Roberts and Republican Senators Paul Lundeen and Bob Gardner agreed that Winter violated ethics rules. Democratic Senator James Coleman was the only one to vote no.

Before the vote, Gonzales said it was up to the committee to decide what behavior was acceptable for a lawmaker and that it was an honor to hold office.

“That is what is expected of each of us,” she said.

The committee recommended that Senate leadership send Winter a letter addressing her conduct at the Northglenn meeting and her drug use. She should be invited to speak before the full Senate when the chamber reconvenes in January, members said. They also recommended that if Winter’s conduct again raises ethical concerns because of her drug use, it should be addressed immediately by the full Senate rather than another proceeding before an ethics committee.

Winter, who voluntarily resigned from his post as committee chairman in the days following the April meeting and underwent treatment for substance abuse, attended Monday’s hearing at the state Capitol but was not called to speak.

She did not immediately respond to a request for comment as the hearing ended. In a letter to the committee last month, Winter apologized again and acknowledged that she had been drinking before the Northglenn meeting.

But she called for the lawsuit to be dismissed, citing the culture of alcohol consumption in the Capitol. Gardner, a Colorado Springs Republican who previously seemed torn about what action to take in response to Winter’s behavior, said he was particularly troubled by Winter’s reference to the Senate’s culture as “justification” for her behavior.

By Everly