We’ve followed with varying quantities of dismay the antics of state Sen. Shawn Mitchell for years, with bemused memories of his “they all look the same” humor on the Senate floor, the truly funny stuff like that Capitol security breach, though a little more dismayed when it veered into sexual harrassment territory during the recently concluded hearings investigating the state-chartered Pinnacol Assurance.
For all the flashes of “creepy” that Mitchell has betrayed over the years, we have to say it’s these recent Pinnacol hearings that have unleashed the man’s true character. It’s more than simply mocking the proceedings by cracking jokes about “the chairwoman’s underwear,” Mitchell’s dismissive attitude toward the more significant issues of widespread mishandling of worker’s compensation cases, combined with a totally unprofessional disregard for the rules governing these hearings–his behavior has been totally unacceptable, it cries out for censure, admonishment, a well-leaked bawling out in the Minority Leader’s office, some kind of action to demonstrate that essential rules of decorum still apply among our state’s highest elected officials.
It came to a head at the end of last week, as the Durango Herald alone sees fit to report–the Denver Post, as we noted previously, finds covering for Mitchell in defense of the Pinnacol status quo preferable:
Legislators wrapped up an acrimonious investigation into Colorado’s workers compensation company Friday, voting to pursue seven bills to change the company’s practices.
The votes to crack down on Pinnacol Assurance fell on party lines, with six Democrats voting yes and all Republicans voting no..The bills will be considered in January when the Legislature starts its 2010 session…
“What is happening here today with this bill, and with the others that follow, is a travesty,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell got into a shouting match with Carroll, the chairwoman, during debate about the surveillance bill, daring her to have sergeants-at-arms eject him from the meeting. [Pols emphasis]
“Behave yourself like an adult!” Carroll said, banging her gavel. “Good God!”
Indeed. This latest incident, and Mitchell’s deportment in these hearings generally, has been reported to us as one of the most embarrassing scenes in the legislature’s institutional memory. Between Doug Bruce kicking photographers, Michael Garcia whipping it out, and Dave Schultheis wishing AIDS on babies, this is, well, no small charge. But given the indifference Minority Leader Josh Penry has already shown about the behavior of his caucus this year, we’re not expecting much to come of it. It’s a sad acknowledgement of where are are today, like wishing those punk kids didn’t spray graffiti everywhere.
At the very least, in light of all the memorable moments we’ve had in this most exciting of off-years, we’ll be giving an award at the end of the year for “Most Despicable Legislator in Colorado,” to be known in shorthand as the “Jim Welker Award.” Seriously, we’re going to make a plaque and everything. Mitchell’s the first nominee, we’ll have the unfortunate duty of profiling others soon.