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Panel finds that State Senator Faith Winter broke ethics rule

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Sara Wilson

(Colorado Newsline) A Colorado legislative ethics committee decided Monday that Senator Faith Winter violated chamber rules when she appeared to be intoxicated during an April public meeting in Northglenn.

The Senate Ethics Committee voted 4-1 that Winter, a Westminster Democrat and the assistant majority leader, broke a Senate rule that members promote public integrity and confidence in their official capacity.

Senator James Coleman, a Denver Democrat and Senate president pro tempore, was the lone “no” vote. Senators Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat, Dylan Roberts, a Frisco Democrat, Bob Gardner, a Colorado Springs Republican and assistant minority leader, and Paul Lundeen, a Monument Republican and chamber minority leader, voted “yes.”

“The evidence that we received indicated that this was part of a larger pattern, that it was not the first instance,” Gardner said. “In that sense, the perceptions and sense of those in the meeting — other elected officials and so forth — was taken (into consideration), and the totality of the circumstances are that Senator Winter failed to uphold the integrity and conduct expected of a senator.”

Coleman acknowledged the “repeated and indirect” traumatization the committee process might have had on its members and on Winter.

The committee also voted to send a report to Senate President Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, that summarizes the committee’s process, expresses their disapproval of Winter’s actions and lets him decide next steps, which might include a letter of admonishment. Additionally, the committee voted to invite Winter to address the full Senate.

The committee could have voted to recommend reprimand, censure or expulsion.

The complaint against Winter stems from an April 3 Northglenn public meeting to discuss opening a mental health transitional living facility in the city, a policy area Winter has worked on. At the meeting, she appeared to be intoxicated and had instances of slurred speech and abnormal pauses.

Local police advised her to not drive home and instead find a ride.

The following day, Winter announced she was seeking treatment for substance abuse disorder and stepped down from her Senate committee chairmanship.

Northglenn City Council submitted an ethics complaint to the Senate, alleging that Winter failed to act in a “manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity” of the Senate chamber.

In a response letter, Winter wrote that she had a drink before attending the meeting, but did not violate chamber rules. She referenced the “commonplace” consumption of alcohol at the Capitol.

“I can confidently say that I have fulfilled my responsibilities and duties as a senator,” she wrote.

Winter did not request an additional evidentiary hearing after the ethics committee found probable cause to proceed with the complaint. She told Colorado Newsline that because the meeting was recorded and she already admitted her mistakes, she did not want to prolong the committee’s process by requesting another hearing.

“I appreciate the work the committee did. Ever since April 3, I have worked hard to take accountability, to apologize to those hurt, and to ensure I’m getting the treatment I need and will continue to do so. I will and always have worked very hard on behalf of my constituents,” she said.

Winter was first elected to the Legislature in 2014 as a state representative. She joined the Senate after the 2018 election. Her current term ends in 2027.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and X.