BREAKING NEWS

Complaint: Iowa state agency director Dave Jamison harassed women for years

Gov. Kim Reynolds releases redacted letter month after firing

Dave Jamison
Dave Jamison

DES MOINES — The leader of the Iowa Finance Authority for years made lurid comments to women in the office, rebuffing warnings and instead escalating a climate of fear with inappropriate gestures and touching, according to a redacted complaint Gov. Kim Reynolds released Thursday — more than a month after she fired Dave Jamison.

The four-page complaint by a woman working for the authority details encounters over a number of years with Jamison, who was fired March 24 by Reynolds. The governor’s office said the victim redacted her complaint and requested its release.

Jamison was paid more than $131,000 last year to lead the agency that, among other things, facilitates affordable housing and community development programs. He was appointed to the position in 2010 by then-Gov. Terry Branstad after losing an election to become state treasurer.

The assertions against Jamison include incidents that occurred while the woman was traveling with him on state business. Among them are allegations he engaged in inappropriate and uninvited touching, asked suggestive questions about her anatomy and speculated she was “naughty.”

“I want to make you and others aware that Dave Jamison has been sexually harassing me and others in the office for years,” wrote the woman, whose identity was removed from the letter. “I am terrified about coming forward, but his behavior is escalating and has to stop. It is not safe for women to be around him. I literally don’t feel safe.”

She said Jamison often complained about his home life while asking about her sex life, talking about visiting massage parlors, staring at her and making sexual comments about her and other women. When traveling, Jamison repeatedly invited the woman and other female co-workers to his hotel room.

When a co-worker scolded Jamison for his comments, the complainant said he responded by saying, “You must be allergic to a paycheck.”

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The letter also asserts that the authority’s general counsel “often tells Dave that he needs to stop or be quiet.”

Jamison appeared to be aware that his actions were inappropriate, telling co-workers ”you know, you could sue me,” the letter said.

Reynolds fired Jamison after receiving the complaint and at least one other. The governor said she had received multiple “credible allegations” of sexual harassment by Jamison, who was a longtime colleague of hers.

Reynolds and Jamison worked together as county treasurers as well as through GOP politics and in state government. He most recently joined her at her weekly news conference March 5.

“I know you’re friends with Dave and I hate to put this on your shoulders, but I just can’t take it anymore,” the woman wrote to Reynolds. “I think (Department of Administrative Services) will just cover for him and I’ll end up without a job. Please help me or tell me who to go to.”

The complaint, Reynolds said, was “all I needed” to act based on her “zero tolerance” policy on sexual harassment.

But in the weeks after the firing, her office refused to provide further information about the complaints she said she received. Reynolds argued the victims would become publicly identified because of the nature of their complaints and because the authority has a small staff.

As recently as Monday, Reynolds defended her decision not to release the complaints.

After the Associated Press filed a public records request to see all communication about the firing, the governor’s office said there was none. Reynolds said she was honoring the victim’s request that it remain confidential. Her office maintained Iowa law allows sexual harassment complaints by public workers against public officials be private.

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“The public’s right to know has to be balanced with the interests and well-being of the victims,” Reynolds said in a statement. “They requested confidentiality, and I can’t allow them to be victimized again by betraying that trust.”

The Freedom of Information Council called on Reynolds to release the details that led to Jamison’s firing.

“All sorts of documents are made public with embarrassing details redacted,” said the council’s Randy Evans. “That could be done in this case. I think it’s a mistake of the governor to set herself above the law.”

Along with the complaint, Reynolds issued the following statement:

“This letter outlines disgusting and abhorrent behavior from David Jamison. It should only be released on the victim’s terms and no one else’s. I believe that victims of sexual harassment must be allowed to tell their story on their own timetable and on their own terms. It takes courage to come forward, and I don’t want any victim of sexual harassment to think twice about doing so in the future.”

The governor’s office acknowledged that if the victim takes legal action against the state or Jamison, her name likely will become public.

According to the governor’s office, the victims made their allegations to Reynolds’ chief of staff, Jake Ketzner, on March 23. The next day, a Saturday, she met with him, her legal counsel and David Roederer and Janet Phipps, directors of the departments of Management and Administrative Services, respectively.

Reynolds did not say what steps — if any — were taken to verify the allegations. Her office said Thursday it has had no communication with Jamison since the firing.

Jamison did not respond to a request for a comment Thursday.

House and Senate Democrats weighed in, charging that Reynolds was more interested in protecting Jamison than the victim.

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“For all her talk about zero tolerance and protecting the victims of workplace harassment, it’s clear that Gov. Reynolds has been more interested in protecting her friend David Jamison,” Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said.

House Minority Leader Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, said after reading the complaint he was “sickened to think any employee would have to endure what occurred.”

“As a longtime friend and ally of Mr. Jamison, Gov. Reynolds and her administration cannot be trusted to handle this matter justly,” he said.

He and Petersen called for the release of all complaints against Jamison during his time in state government, as well as the number of harassment complaints brought by state employees since Reynolds became lieutenant governor in 2011 and an external investigation of the workplace culture at the authority.

“This allegation is eerily similar to those raised by Senate employees during an internal investigation last year,” Petersen said.

Jamison’s firing follows two other high-profile sexual harassment scandals in the Statehouse. Last year, former Iowa Senate caucus staffer Kirsten Anderson won her case asserting she was improperly fired just hours after complaint of sexual harassment on the job. Then in March, Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock abruptly quit when a video surfaced showing him and a lobbyist kissing in a Des Moines tavern.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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