Ex-staffer sues Rep. Lamborn alleging lax COVID-19 protocols
DENVER (AP) — A former aide to U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado alleges in a lawsuit that the Republican congressman disregarded coronavirus safety protocols in his Washington office even after he and staff members were infected, let one of his sons live in the basement of the U.S. Capitol and ordered staff to run personal errands for his family.
The lawsuit, filed by Brandon Pope in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, contends that Pope was fired after raising concerns about safety conditions in the workplace, The Denver Post reported.
Lamborn spokeswoman Cassandra Sebastian issued a statement strongly denying Pope’s allegations and said the congressman “looks forward to full vindication as all facts come to light.”
On Friday, the eight-term congressman from Colorado Springs told Colorado Public Radio the lawsuit consists of a “tissue of lies,” and he allowed his son to stay at the Capitol as his guest because of the tight housing market in Washington.
According to the lawsuit, Lamborn repeatedly claimed the coronavirus was a “hoax” and needlessly exposed his congressional staff in Washington by keeping his office open and not allowing them to socially distance.
Lamborn tested positive for the virus in November, and the lawsuit claims he did not alter course afterward. The lawsuit also alleges that Lamborn told a staffer who was going to wear a mask, “Well, I don’t care about you guys getting it” and that his wife also wouldn’t wear a mask because “no one was going to tell (her) what to do.”
Pope also claimed that one of Lamborn’s sons was allowed to live rent-free for weeks in a storage area of the U.S. Capitol’s basement after relocating to Washington and that staff were ordered to help him apply for federal jobs. The staff also were required to run personal errands for Lamborn’s family, including loading furniture to be moved to their vacation home, picking up personal mail and carrying personal legal documents, according to the lawsuit.
The House Ethics manual forbids lawmakers from using staff for anything other than official congressional duties.
“Staff were also made to believe that accepting invitations for family events, including meals with the Lamborn family, was required in order to remain employed,” the lawsuit alleges, adding that aides also were “compelled” to give Christmas and birthday gifts to Lamborn and his wife.
Emails obtained by The Denver Post between staff members show requests for donating money for Christmas gifts and notes about running personal errands for Lamborn’s wife.
One email from Dec. 9, 2019, was sent to Lamborn’s all-staff list by Lamborn Chief of Staff Dale Anderson with the subject line “Christmas Gift to Lamborns.”
“It looks like we are able to get a gift certificate for the Kennedy Center so they can put toward their favorite concert/show,” Anderson wrote. “$10 from each of us will give them some flexibility in deciding what they want to attend.”
“Pay me cash or send it through Venmo,” he added.
Anderson did not respond to calls Friday seeking comment.
A second email from one of Lamborn’s assistants and schedulers, Linda Rutzen, has the subject line “Leaving for lunch/errand.”
“Team — I am leaving now to run an errand for Mrs. Lamborn, then I will take my lunch hour,” she wrote in the Jan. 9, 2020, email.
Pope is seeking a trial and unspecified monetary compensation for emotional pain and suffering, according to the lawsuit.