A former staffer’s allegations that Rep. Doug Lamborn let his son live in the Capitol basement and directed employees to complete personal tasks could make the Colorado Republican the subject of an ethics investigation.
The former employee, Brandon Pope, alleges he was retaliated against by the lawmaker for attempting to protect employees from unsafe working conditions he said Lamborn fostered during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in Pope’s firing. There is insufficient precedent on what that alleged behavior regarding COVID-19 means and it is unlikely House rules would apply.
However, the other allegations raise questions about whether the lawmaker violated House rules in using congressional staff to perform unofficial work, personal errands and misusing congressional resources. The lawsuit alleges Lamborn allowed his son to live in a storage area in the Capitol basement and instructed congressional employees to help his son navigate the USA Jobs board and prepare for interviews.
“The workplace safety allegations made by Mr. Pope are unsubstantiated and did not result in the termination of his employment,” Cassandra Sebastian, a spokesperson for Lamborn said in an emailed statement. “Congressman Lamborn looks forward to full vindication as all facts come to light.”
Lamborn’s office required employees to pick up personal mail, load furniture for his vacation home and had staff use official time to perform campaign work, such as preparing for campaign events, the lawsuit alleges. Additionally, it says Lamborn’s staff was forced to help the lawmaker’s wife set up a video telecom system so she could have personal communications with her family.
The Office of Congressional Ethics and the House Ethics Committee both have a history of investigating misuse of congressional resources for personal purposes. Both investigated former Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Va., for improperly using official resources for personal use. This included staff helping the family move and unloading their groceries. The House Ethics Committee did not take action, despite finding substantial evidence of wrongdoing, because Garrett chose to retire.
“In addition to violating the Congressional Accountability Act, Representative Lamborn and Chief of Staff Anderson’s conduct was simply disgraceful,” Les Alderman, Pope's lawyer, said in an emailed statement that referred to Lamborn’s top aide, Dale Anderson. “The allegations in our complaint paint a picture of people who just don’t care, either about their employees or their constituents. Our elected leaders should know better.”
In Lamborn’s district office, employees were not mandated to wear masks. When Lamborn and senior staff contracted COVID-19 in the fall of 2020, he did not follow health and safety protocols, allowing the virus to spread across his Colorado and D.C. offices, the lawsuit alleges.
After coming into close contact with his deputy chief who had COVID-19, Lamborn allegedly said he “did not care” if his employees were infected and would not isolate or wear a mask to mitigate his transmission of the virus to others.