Staff Editorial

Jamison case should lead to real change

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds campaigns at the GOP District Convention at West High in Iowa City on Saturday, April 28, 2018. (KC McGinnis/The Gazette)
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds campaigns at the GOP District Convention at West High in Iowa City on Saturday, April 28, 2018. (KC McGinnis/The Gazette)

It’s been more than a month since Gov. Kim Reynolds moved swiftly to fire Dave Jamison, the director of the Iowa Finance Authority, after receiving what she called “credible” sexual harassment charges. Last week, we learned the shocking scope of Jamison’s sexual misconduct when the governor’s office released a complaint letter to Reynolds written by an IFA employee detailing years of harassment.

Firing, clearly, was the right call. But Reynolds’ other moves in handling the matter raise plenty of questions.

A change in Iowa’s public records law approved by lawmakers just last year requires state agencies to make public “the documented reasons and rationale” for a resignation, discharge or demotion resulting from a disciplinary action. The law’s language and intent are clear. Iowans should know about misconduct committed on their dime.

And yet, Reynolds refused for weeks to provide the public with further detail, citing a desire to shield the identities of victims. She said the law doesn’t apply to at-will employees such as Jamison, but provided a flimsy legal rationale. Her office told the Associated Press no documentation existed, but later conceded the existence of the written complaint.

Last week, Reynolds’ office released the complaint, compelled to do so by the victim, but not the law. The employee’s name was redacted, an appropriate step which both shielded the victim while permitting greater transparency. The complaint detailed not only Jamison’s harassment but questionable actions by other IFA staffers who failed to curb the director’s misconduct.

So it’s a document that clearly points to systemic failures, the sort that would force a harassed and frustrated employee to take her charges all the way to the governor. And yet, Reynolds waited more than a month to call for an investigation to look into these and other issues.

The governor took decisive action to terminate Jamison, but then followed a winding path looking, at times, more like a strategy to cover up an embarrassing episode than an effort to reassure and inform Iowans who have become wary of the state’s ability to properly respond to harassment. The mishandling of a complaint from an Iowa Senate staff member cost taxpayers $1.75 million.

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We’re hoping now for a better path forward. We hope investigations into IFA failures lead to real changes, breaking down barriers faced by employees seeking help and trying to be heard. We need a system that takes their complaints seriously and punishes supervisors who fail to act. And we expect the governor’s office and all agencies to follow Iowa’s open records law.

That way, Iowans will know whether Reynolds’ commitment to “zero tolerance” is more than a slogan.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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