A former staffer to U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn filed a federal lawsuit Thursday alleging the Republican congressman ignored COVID-19 precautions — including mask wearing and social distancing — and created unsafe working conditions in his offices.
The legal action also accuses Lamborn of using his position in Congress to benefit his family, making staff run errands for his wife. Lamborn allegedly allowed his son to live out of a storage room in the basement of the U.S. Capitol for a period of weeks and ordered staffers to help the son find jobs in a federal database and prepare for interviews.
Brandon Pope, who was a defense adviser to the eight-term Colorado Springs representative, claimed in the lawsuit that Lamborn didn’t require employees in his district office to wear masks and didn’t allow for social distancing.
“Worse, when Lamborn and other senior members of his staff became infected with COVID-19 in the fall of 2020, Lamborn refused to implement or follow reasonable and responsible COVID-19 protocols,” the lawsuit says.
Lamborn’s office denied the accusations.
“The workplace safety allegations made by Mr. Pope are unsubstantiated and did not result in the termination of his employment,” said Cassandra Sebastian, a spokeswoman for the congressman. “Congressman Lamborn looks forward to full vindication as all facts come to light.”
In an interview with Colorado Public Radio on Friday in Washington, D.C., Lamborn called the aide who is suing him a “disgruntled employee.”
Asked whether he let his son live in the U.S. Capitol basement for several weeks, Lamborn said: “I gave my son temporary housing as my guest, because the housing market in Washington, D.C., is very tight. And he moved here to get a job at the Pentagon, and I’m proud of my son.”
Pressed about where he helped his son find housing, and whether it was in the Capitol basement or his office, Lamborn declined to say.
“I’m not going to go into more detail on that,” he said. But there’s nothing, there’s no ethical issues involved.”
MORE: Read the lawsuit here.
The legal action alleges that widespread COVID-19 transmission happened in both Lamborn’s Colorado Springs and Washington offices. It says when Lamborn temporarily closed his D.C. office because of the outbreak, Dale Anderson, his chief of staff, told workers not to tell family or friends they had been in contact with people who had tested positive for the virus.
The lawsuit claims that around October, after the health danger “became more concrete, and as more and more staffers began contracting COVID-19,” Pope spoke out in opposition to Lamborn’s “reckless practices.” He was fired Dec. 7.
Lamborn announced in November that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
The lawsuit claims Lamborn violated the Congressional Accountability Act, a federal law providing workplace safety rights to congressional staffers and that makes it “unlawful for an employing office to intimidate, take reprisal against, or otherwise discriminate against, any covered employee because the covered employee has opposed any practice made unlawful by [the Congressional Accountability] Act.”
The legal action seeks monetary damages, as well as guarantees that Lamborn will change his behavior.
In addition to the coronavirus safety accusations, the lawsuit also alleges that Lamborn used his position in Congress to benefit his family, including requiring staff to load furniture for his family’s vacation home and set up a personal video telecommunications system for his wife.
This story was updated at 9:16 a.m. on May 14, 2021, to add comments from an interview with U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn.