Government

Carberry apologizes for comments made in 2010

Johnson County supervisor says documents tell only half the story

Mike Carberry

Johnson County Supervisor (Mike Carberry).
Mike Carberry Johnson County Supervisor (Mike Carberry).

IOWA CITY — Johnson County Supervisor Mike Carberry, who is running for re-election, is calling attention to a 2010 incident when he told a co-worker her “tricking days were over” and “could not work the pole as effectively” as she used to, according to an administrative law judge’s ruling from the time.

In a statement released Thursday, Carberry’s campaign recounted the incident and apologized to the co-worker and his employer at the time, the Iowa Renewable Energy Association.

Carberry said he decided to release the statement because a link to the ruling was posted earlier Thursday in a private Johnson County Democratic Party Facebook group.

“The documents that actually exist online actually only have half of the story, have the comments that I made and not the comments that she made. So it made it sound like I was creating a hostile work environment,” Carberry said, adding that he had heard recent rumors about people discussing the ruling. “I actually had anticipated that (Facebook post). That apology was not written today.”

The ruling, a four-page document concerning unemployment benefits on the Iowa Workforce Development site, outlines interactions between Carberry and the co-worker that eventually resulted in the elimination of Carberry’s executive director position and his eventual resignation from the Iowa Renewable Energy Association.

The ruling decided that Carberry was not eligible for unemployment benefits.

“The employer determined there was a harassment issue, which directly fell under ‘neglect of administrative responsibilities’ and the work environment was referred to as a ‘borderline hostile work environment’ by one of the staff,” according to the ruling.

In his campaign’s statement, Carberry said that he and the co-worker were discussing her struggles getting child support from an ex-husband and “engaged in banter” and “in a joking manner.”

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The statement said the co-worker responded to Carberry’s initial comments by saying, “Your days of being a gigolo and a Chippendale’s dancer are over, too.”

“This is not sexual harassment,“ Carberry said. “It was inappropriate talk. That is for sure. I talked about things and made jokes that I should not have made at the office. I admit that. I apologize for that.”

Carberry said he didn’t believe the exchange should be considered a #MeToo event.

“Did I engage in inappropriate behavior eight years ago? Yes,” Carberry said. “That was in my thinking. You don’t want to be lumped in with other things. The climate is different today than it was eight years ago.”

In his statement, Carberry said he learned from the incident.

“I learned that as a manager, whether speaking in jest or not, I should not bring personal issues into workplace conversation. I learned that I need to speak and act more respectfully and professionally,” Carberry said in the statement.

Steve Fugate, now a mechanic, was the education director for the Iowa Renewable Energy Association at the time of the incident, and recalled the small office having a “light mood.”

The ruling outlined a second incident that “exploded” just before Carberry’s job was eliminated.

While the document said that Carberry kept bothering the co-worker with information about her ex-boyfriend on Facebook, Fugate remembers it as the co-worker asking Carberry to check the ex-boyfriend’s page for her and reacting negatively to seeing a photo of him with another woman.

The co-worker threatened to vandalize Carberry’s car, burn down his home and kill him if he didn’t stop talking, according to the document.

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“It was a huge incident,” Fugate said, adding there was no conflict before this time. “The incident was very out-of-character and irregular but it was very extreme also.”

Carberry’s statement also addressed voters.

“I ask the voters to consider me in the whole of my work as an environmental advocate and county supervisor. I ask you to consider me not only in my worst moment but also in the whole of my work, doing my best as an elected official and policy advocate for issues important to all citizens,” he said in the statement.

Carberry is running for another term as supervisors.

Two supervisor seats are on the ballot this fall, and three Democrats are running in the June 6 primary: Carberry; Supervisor Janelle Rettig; and Pat Heiden, former executive director of the Oaknoll Retirement Residence. The winners of Democratic primaries in Johnson County typically win general elections.

MIKE CARBERRY’S FULL STATEMENT

Rumors, half truths and false news are circulating in the midst of an election campaign about an interaction I had with an employee in 2010. It is sometimes difficult to set the record straight in today’s environment, but the following is my recollection of the context of the exchange between me and my colleague.

The topic of the discussion was her difficulty in getting child support payments from her ex-husband. As we sometimes did, my colleague and I engaged in banter. At one point I said to her, “Your tricking days are over and you cannot work the pole as effectively as you once did.” She responded, “Your days of being a gigolo and a Chippendale’s dancer are over, too.” The exchange was given and taken in a joking manner.

Later, it was clear that my statement as taken as hurtful by her. I apologized to her and our employer.

She asked our Board to intervene. I apologized to her and the Board at that time. The apology was sincere then as it is today. I am sorry.

I learned that as a manager, whether speaking in jest or not, I should not bring personal issues into workplace conversation. I learned that I need to speak and act more respectfully and professionally.

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Some points raised by my employer are statements, not documented facts. My experience has revealed to me that I can improve in managing employees, and I have in the 8 years since this incident. Connecting people to build a coalition in a common cause to make a united statement about a pipeline, a nuclear or coal plant, rural residential development, or local foods is my stronger skill. Creating good public policy is my passion.

I repeat my apology to her, my employer, and the voters of Johnson County. I ask the voters to consider me in the whole of my work as an environmental advocate and County Supervisor. I ask you to consider me not only in my worst moment but also in the whole of my work doing my best as an elected official and policy advocate for issues important to all citizens.

 

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