DES MOINES — A state panel will be asked next week to approve a $1.75 million judgment to settle charges of sexual harassment leveled against Republicans in the Iowa Senate by a former employee who said she was fired after complaining about a “toxic” work environment at the Capitol building.
The three-member State Appeal Board — made up of the state auditor, state treasurer and director of the Iowa Department of Management — will be presented terms of an offer made by the state to settle a dispute with Kirsten Anderson, the former Iowa Senate GOP communications director who brought a successful legal challenge against her former employer.
In July, a Polk County District Court jury awarded Anderson $2.2 million, but the state appealed. Now the two sides have agreed the state will drop its appeal and pay $1,044.776 to Anderson and $705,224 for attorney fees and costs to the law firm representing her to end the case, according to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
The settlement was signed by Anderson, her attorney, Michael Carroll, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, according to State Appeal Board documents. Dix declined to comment on the matter.
However, Cedar Rapids Sen. Rob Hogg, leader of the Senate’s Democratic caucus, issued a statement expressing dismay over Iowa taxpayers’ money going “to pay for GOP misdeeds.”
“Iowans are rightfully disgusted by the harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against Kirsten Anderson and other legislative staff,” Hogg said in his statement. “They are outraged that their tax dollars are going to be used to pay $1.75 million because of the misconduct and mismanagement by Republican senators.
“When a jury delivered the verdict against Senate Republicans in July, I called on all senators to work together to fix this problem,” he added. “Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have ignored the calls for action and Iowa taxpayers are paying the price.”
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Anderson — who worked in the Iowa Senate for five years — told jurors she was fired in 2013 about seven hours after she complained to her boss about the lewd and sexist behavior she experienced there. Her assertions were backed up by others who also testified at trial.
Dix contended Anderson was fired for poor work performance. But he told reporters in July that things he learned from the trial “that I was not aware of” prompted him to have the Secretary of the Senate launch an internal investigation and contract with the Iowa Department of Administrative Services to provide human resources services to the Iowa Senate.
Also, a Senate Republican Caucus staff employee who was at the center of a sexual harassment lawsuit reportedly resigned his Senate job earlier this month..