Government

Anamosa council fires police chief

Decision came after $750K settlement after gender discrimination

Former Anamosa police Chief Bob Simonson. (Photo from city of Anamosa)
Former Anamosa police Chief Bob Simonson. (Photo from city of Anamosa)
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ANAMOSA — Without discussion, the Anamosa City Council voted unanimously Monday night to fire police Chief Bob Simonson weeks after paying out a $750,000 gender bias settlement with a former female police officer.

More than 10 residents spoke at the end of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, telling the council they want to see more done to eradicate a “good-old boy” system in the town of 5,400.

“We’ve had enough,” said Crystal Wherry, of Anamosa, who was one of a dozen women in the room wearing black T-shirts that said #enough.

More than 60 people wedged into the City Council chambers, with more waiting in the lobby, but the vote that happened in the first five minutes of the meeting came without fanfare.

Council member Rich Crump made a motion for summary termination of Simonson, requiring the chief of the seven-officer department for nearly eight years to turn in his equipment by noon Tuesday. The motion was seconded and a roll-call vote showed all members in favor.

Simonson was not at the meeting and has not returned several messages from The Gazette seeking comment.

Officer Amy Ford, who worked for the Anamosa Police Department from 2007 to 2017, alleged in a December 2015 lawsuit that Simonson sent sexist emails to police department staff, discriminated against her in equipment purchases and retaliated against her when she complained about bias.

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Ford, who was not at Monday’s meeting, released a statement later saying she was pleased the council voted to remove Simonson.

“It was important for me personally to stand up for myself, which was validated with the settlement,” Ford said. “However it did nothing to help the citizens of Anamosa and that is why the envelope had to be pushed and questions had to be asked. I’m thankful for the strong group of citizens that have continued the fight and asked those questions and pushed for accountability.”

Simonson, hired as chief in May 2010, had a pattern of forwarding bawdy jokes, photos of naked women and other emails with sexist messages, Ford said in her lawsuit. Her attorney, Katie Ervin Carlson with Fiedler & Timmer in Johnston, shared with The Gazette 10 emails they received as part of discovery in the lawsuit.

One email Simonson forwarded June 10, 2015, from his Yahoo account to more than 30 recipients, including Ford and other police officers, had the subject line “Do you remember the Hula-Hoop?”. It showed the back of a naked woman with a Hula-Hoop and the caption “Mezmerizing [sic] isn’t it?”

Simonson also refused to buy Ford a new ballistics vest, despite hers expiring and not fitting, she said in her lawsuit.

Ford made a written complaint to then-City Administrator Alan Johnson on July 21, 2015, alleging gender discrimination. She got the vest, but the complaint led to retaliation from Simonson that included him giving her the first write-up she’d had in the department and passing her over for a promotion, she said.

Ford’s lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial in December, but the city and its insurer, EMC, in January settled for $750,000 — with EMC paying $700,000.

Ford, 38, now is a police officer for Lisbon.

“My grandkids had Amy in the DARE program,” said Cheryl Coker, of Anamosa. “It’s a shame we lost such as good person. Good for Lisbon.”

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John Ely, of Anamosa, came expecting to talk about why Simonson should be fired, but the council acted first.

“I’m happy with the decision the council has made there,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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