Staff Columnist

If there's no reason for a reason

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks as acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg stands nearby during a campaign announcement stop in Marion on Thursday, March 8, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks as acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg stands nearby during a campaign announcement stop in Marion on Thursday, March 8, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

When no reason is needed, it’s difficult to understand why one sort of was given.

Perhaps you’ve been following the recent flap surrounding Gov. Kim Reynolds’ decision to fire Iowa Finance Authority head Dave Jamison a day after receiving what her office deemed “credible” complaints of sexual harassment?

On Monday, Ryan Foley of the Associated Press reported in response to an open-records request that the “Iowa governor says her office received no documentary evidence, conducted no investigation and created no documents” surrounding the termination.

Although Reynolds previously supported a new law requiring disclosure when public employees are fired, she contends Jamison is different because he is an at-will employee. She doubled down on this rationale Monday during her regular news conference, saying details would not be disclosed in order to protect the identity of victims.

But by Monday afternoon, the Governor’s Office reversed course on documentation, saying it does have a written complaint detailing sexual harassment against Jamison, calling the misinformation an office error. Even so, Reynolds won’t release it, claiming it’s exempt from open-records law.

“The public’s right to know has to be balanced with the interests and well-being of the victims. They requested confidentiality, and I can’t allow them to be victimized again by betraying that trust,” Reynolds responded in a statement, which the AP notes didn’t explain why redacted documents couldn’t be released.

It’s important to note not everyone agrees with Reynolds’ interpretation of the law regarding disclosure following the termination of employees, including at-will employees.

“The governor is ignoring the clear language and clear intent of Iowa’s public records law,” said Randy Evans, director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.

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But, for the moment, let’s choose to believe Reynolds is correct and she doesn’t have to give a reason why Jamison was fired. If that is correct, then why dangle a neon sign of sexual harassment? Why drag someone you’ve known for decades through a pit of public scorn, while allowing the public to believe the absolute worst scenarios possible?

It’s possible the complaints against Jamison are far worse than public speculation, which could prompt further scrutiny and questions the Governor’s Office isn’t prepared to or doesn’t want to answer.

But the timeline also is suspect. Jamison was abruptly fired March 24. Twelve days earlier, Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, who repeatedly botched sexual harassment investigations and denied a court finding of wrongful termination of a staffer who reported harassment, resigned in disgrace. The GOP leader wasn’t pushed out for his mismanagement, or for costing taxpayers a $1.75 million lawsuit settlement. In fact, throughout the debacle Republican leaders, including Reynolds, looked the other way, signaling tacit support.

What better way to separate yourself from ongoing legislative controversy than by immediately firing an appointee for sexual harassment, touting a “zero tolerance” policy, and hoping that’s all the public needs to know?

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 368-8513, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com

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