Staff Columnist

Senators must name names from harassment report

A portion of the Iowa Senate GOP's internal investigation report atop a picture of the Iowa Statehouse.
A portion of the Iowa Senate GOP's internal investigation report atop a picture of the Iowa Statehouse.

Release the names of Iowa lawmakers accused of sexual harassment.

Iowans have known for months that certain members of the Iowa Legislature have been accused of sexual harassment, but the exact identities of those individuals have been protected by partisan leaders.

“Many of the Senate Republican Caucus Staff members said that there is an environment on the Senate Floor with Senators making sexually suggestive comments or about sexual preferences,” according to an internal report launched last year by Senate Republicans.

Because of that report we know, for instance, that one senator made “a sexually suggestive comment during the 2017 session” and that more such comments were made before that session in connection with a bill involving mammograms.

Still more reports “mentioned by Senate Republican Caucus Staff members involved former Iowa Senate members.”

Perhaps far worse is that we learned, through the same report, that these comments are likely only a small fraction of what has transpired.

“Several of the staff members interviewed indicted they possess a fear of retaliation, which is why they did not feel comfortable reporting any instances of harassment. Further, they would be unlikely to report any future incidents, should they arise, due to this fear,” interviewers wrote in the report.

It has been nearly a year since the public’s eyes were opened to harassment at the Statehouse and yet no legislation that deals with sexual harassment has advanced. Leadership continues to shield its membership from public scrutiny, and deny those members an opportunity for atonement.

Meanwhile, more troubling information has come forward.

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The Governor’s Office recently terminated the employment of Dave Jamison as director of the Iowa Finance Authority a day after hearing allegations against him.

The public has been kept in the dark about the specifics of those allegations, but there was, thankfully, no move to shield the identity of the agency head or the reason why he was discharged.

Former Senate GOP leader Bill Dix, who bungled the Legislature’s response to a $1.75 million wrongful termination settlement, resigned in disgrace a month ago after being caught on video canoodling at a bar with a lobbyist.

Lawmakers are touting the fact that they hired a human resources director to assist employees and supervisors with work-related issues, including harassment. It was a long overdue and welcome change that doesn’t erase the ongoing need for transparency.

Elected officials are supposed to answer to voters. By continuing to keep secrets, to shield elected officials from alleged wrongdoing, Legislative leaders are denying voters an opportunity to make an informed decision.

The public has heard a great deal about there being a “zero tolerance policy” for sexual harassment in state government. But how is that possible when alleged harassers are protected?

Reveal the names, and let voters decide what happens next.

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

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