Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Rep. Doug Lamborn
Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn is being accused of allowing his adult son to live in a storage area in the U.S. Capitol for weeks after his son relocated for work — one of a number of claims made in a lawsuit by a former staffer over Lamborn's response to COVID-19.
The suit was filed Thursday in Washington, D.C., by Brandon Pope, who worked as a defense and business adviser in Lamborn's Colorado Springs District Office and also traveled to the lawmaker's D.C. office in June and July 2020.
Though Pope's complaint is largely about Lamborn's alleged "reckless and dangerous approach to COVID- 19, and [how] he retaliated against Mr. Pope for seeking to protect employees from unsafe conditions in the workplace" — which Lamborn denies — the claim about his son has drawn its own notice.
The lawsuit, reviewed by PEOPLE, accuses Lamborn of giving "his son the necessary access to live in a storage area in the basement of the U.S. Capitol for a period of weeks when Lamborn's son relocated to Washington, D.C. for work," thereby allowing his son "to live in Congressional space."
In a statement to Colorado Public Radio on Friday, Lamborn confirmed only that he gave his son "temporary housing as my guest because the housing market in Washington, DC is very tight, and he moved here to get a job at the Pentagon."
His office did not respond to a question from PEOPLE about where that housing was.
The Sergeants at Arms, which handles building access at the Capitol, did not respond to PEOPLE's request for more information about approved occupants in specific spaces.
Pope's suit further alleges that the Republican "refused to implement" COVID-19 protocols in either of his offices — resulting in an outbreak of the virus among staff — and that his staffers were instructed not to tell anyone that they had been in contact with those who had tested positive.
"As of approximately April 2020, Representative Lamborn was operating both the District and D.C. Offices at maximum staff occupancy levels," the suit states. "Unlike other offices, Representative Lamborn declared all of his employees to be 'essential' and instructed them to ignore local and state shelter-in-place rules."
In his suit, Pope says Lamborn referred to the pandemic as a "hoax" and "did not require employees in the District Office to wear masks, claiming that he would not allow House Leadership to dictate how he ran his office, and he did not permit all employees to social distance."
Pope says that when a female employee raised concerns with Lamborn's chief of staff, Dale Anderson, she was "dismissed and/or downplayed" and even mocked, "both in her presence and behind her back."
Anderson did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment regarding those allegations.
Pope also claims that, after Lamborn came in to close contact with his deputy chief of staff, who had been infected with the virus, the lawmaker "told one staffer that he 'did not care' if his employees got infected and that he was not going to wear a mask or isolate himself."
Asked to comment on the allegations, Cassandra Sebastian, Lamborn's spokeswoman, told PEOPLE in a statement: "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."
According to the suit, Pope is a former officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and was hired as a Wounded Warrior Fellow by Lamborn in August 2019.
Pope claims he was fired in December 2020 "for his vocal opposition to Lamborn's reckless approach to COVID-19," but under the guise of "an alleged lack of professionalism and abrasiveness toward his colleagues and supervisors."
Pope says he suffered emotional pain and suffering and "substantial economic damages," in the form of lost income, as a result of what he alleges was retaliation by Lamborn.
He seeks monetary and compensatory damages, as well as out of pocket expenses, and asks that the court declare Lamborn's employment practices to be in violation of the Congressional Accountability Act.