Former aide says congressman recklessly exposed staff to coronavirus, let son live in Capitol basement
WASHINGTON - A former aide accused U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., of allowing his son to live in a storage space in the basement of the U.S. Capitol for several weeks and recklessly exposing staffers to the novel coronavirus, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday.
Former aide Brandon Pope accused Lamborn, 66, of Colorado Springs, of consistently disregarding "ethical rules and guidelines" for lawmakers, including taking a "reckless" approach to the pandemic and retaliating against Pope when he raised objections.
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Pope, whose lawsuit said he was fired after working from May until December as a defense and business adviser, asked a federal judge to find that the eight-term member of Congress violated workplace rights under the Congressional Accountability Act and to award compensatory and punitive damages.
Lamborn communications director Cassandra Sebastian did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a statement to NBC4 in Washington, which first reported the lawsuit, Sebastian said, "The workplace safety allegations made by Mr. Pope are unsubstantiated and did not result in the termination of his employment . . . Congressman Lamborn looks forward to full vindication as all facts come to light."
In a 16-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, Pope's attorney Leslie Alderman III accused Lamborn of flouting House safety rules, ignoring warnings and taking staff members to perform personal favors and tasks for his family.
The lawsuit alleges that Lamborn allowed his son to live in the Capitol basement while he was relocating to Washington for work.
The suit, which said Lamborn often called the pandemic a "hoax," also asserted he asked aides to run family errands, including loading furniture to be moved to their vacation home, and helping his son complete applications for federal employment and answer job interview questions.
Lamborn's office announced Nov. 18 that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. They said he was experiencing "mild symptoms," in contact with the House attending physician and following all CDC guidelines while isolating at his home in Colorado Springs.
His spokeswoman declined to say at the time when he tested positive or whether others in his office had.
The suit alleged Lamborn learned about Oct. 5 that a senior aide had tested positive and that additional District of Columbia staffers had covid-like symptoms. However, the suit alleged that Lamborn falsely denied to the House physician about being in close contact with aides for several days, including that he had slept in his congressional office during that time.
After several District office employees tested positive, the suit alleged, staffers were instructed not to tell anyone, including their families, roommates and friends, that they had been in close contact with them. Lamborn, who had also been in contact with the infected employees, continued to work with aides in his Colorado district office, the suit alleged.
"As the danger to Lamborn's staff became more concrete, and as more and more staffers began contracting covid-19, Pope asserted his opposition to Lamborn's reckless practices and stood up for others in the office who were either at risk themselves or who had close family who were at greater risk from the infection," Pope's lawsuit alleged.
Pope tested positive Nov. 19, and said in the lawsuit he believed Lamborn infected him. Pope alleged that he was fired shortly afterward, the victim of retaliation for "seeking to protect employees from unsafe conditions in the workplace."
The lawsuit alleged Lamborn did not require employees to wear masks, permit all to remain six feet apart, or implement responsible safety protocols.
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