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Ex-Aide to Congressman Claims He Was Fired for Voicing Virus Concerns

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A former aide to Representative Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, filed a lawsuit on Thursday claiming that he was fired after complaining about his boss’s disregard for safety measures meant to protect congressional staff members from the coronavirus, which he said resulted in an outbreak in Mr. Lamborn’s office.

The former aide, Brandon Pope, said in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, that he had tested positive for the virus on Nov. 19, one day after learning that Mr. Lamborn and two other staff members had contracted the virus.

Calling Mr. Lamborn the source of his own infection, either direct or indirect, Mr. Pope, 35, said his boss had misled his aides and the Office of the Attending Physician for Congress about his exposure. The lawsuit claims that Mr. Lamborn had slept in his Capitol Hill office and had close contact with infected staff members.

In the 16-page lawsuit filed against the office of Mr. Lamborn, Mr. Pope said that the representative had mostly barred aides in his district office in Colorado Springs from working remotely last year and made few accommodations to ensure social distancing or the wearing of masks.

When Mr. Pope told Mr. Lamborn and his chief of staff about his concerns, the lawsuit said, they dismissed them and eventually terminated him from his job as a defense and business adviser in December. From the start of the pandemic, Mr. Pope said, the message from Mr. Lamborn and Mr. Lamborn’s wife to the staff about the dangers of the virus had been clear.

“Both claimed that COVID was a hoax and asserted that the pandemic was being used to alter the course of the congressional and presidential elections,” the lawsuit said.

Cassandra Sebastian, a spokeswoman for Mr. Lamborn, 66, who was first elected to the House in 2006, denied the allegations in an email statement on Thursday.

“The workplace safety allegations made by Mr. Pope are unsubstantiated and did not result in the termination of his employment,” Ms. Sebastian said. “Congressman Lamborn looks forward to full vindication as all facts come to light.”

In addition to accusing Mr. Lamborn of flouting safety protocols, Mr. Pope leveled a number of other allegations of impropriety by his former boss. One in particular was that Mr. Lamborn had provided his son, whose name was not mentioned, access to a basement storage area in the U.S. Capitol as a place to live for several weeks when the son moved to Washington for work.

Mr. Lamborn’s spokeswoman declined to comment further about the other allegations in the lawsuit, which said that Mr. Lamborn’s aides had also been required to prepare Mr. Lamborn’s son for his job search with mock interviews.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, said Mr. Pope was hired to work as a Wounded Warrior Fellow in Mr. Lamborn’s district office in August 2019 after he retired from military service as a captain in the Marines who had served in Afghanistan. Mr. Pope was then hired last May to a full-time position as a defense and business adviser to Mr. Lamborn, according to the lawsuit. He worked in Washington in June and July of last year, the lawsuit said.

Mr. Pope, who lives in Colorado Springs, said in the lawsuit that Mr. Lamborn and his chief of staff, Dale Anderson, had mostly thwarted requests to allow district office aides with underlying health conditions or family members who could become compromised by the virus to work from home. The lawsuit said that Mr. Lamborn and Mr. Anderson repeatedly mocked staff members who raised concerns over the virus.

“Representative Lamborn had a reckless and dangerous approach to COVID-19, and he retaliated against Mr. Pope for seeking to protect employees from unsafe conditions in the workplace,” the lawsuit said.

Mr. Anderson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday night.

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