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#15 Sexual misconduct ensnares Iowa officials | The Gazette Top Stories 2018

State hardly immune from America's #MeToo reckoning

Tablet screen with MeToo hashtag used to protest sexual harrassment and assault in social media campaign
Tablet screen with MeToo hashtag used to protest sexual harrassment and assault in social media campaign
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As we take a look back at 2018, The Gazette newsroom assembled a list of our top stories of the year. Be sure to follow along as we count down to number 1!

America’s reckoning with sexual misconduct and the #MeToo movement continued, and Iowa was not immune.

For instance:

l On March 12, Iowa Senate President Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, abruptly quit after a video showing him kissing a lobbyist while at a tavern surfaced online.

Dix, then the leader of the Senate Republicans, was involved the year before in the legal action of a former Senate GOP staffer who won a $1.75 million settlement after showing she was fired hours after complaining of sexual harassment.

Dix vowed an investigation. In January, former state Sen. Mary Kramer made recommendations for handling training of lawmakers and for receiving allegations of Statehouse sexual harassment.

l On March 24, Gov. Kim Reynolds fired Iowa Finance Authority Director David Jamison after a female employee complained he harassed her.

A five-month Des Moines law firm investigation followed. Released in September, it stated he grabbed a subordinate’s breasts and watched a pornographic video on his phone in front of a woman while they were alone on a work trip.

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The report concluded the state’s sexual harassment policies should be more clear. In October, Iowa lawmakers approved new rules on confidentiality of sexual harassment complaints and investigations.

l On May 24, state Sen. Nate Boulton dropped out of the Democratic primary for Iowa governor following a Des Moines Register report that three women said he had inappropriately touched them, two during law school more than a decade ago and one at a bar in 2015.

The woman who accused him of misconduct in 2015, lawyer Sharon Wegner of Des Moines, filed an ethics complaint against him. The Iowa Senate Ethics Committee voted to dismiss the case since the alleged actions happened before Boulton was in office.

Boulton, from Des Moines, remains in the Senate despite calls from his own party he resign.

l On June 29, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of Abraham Watkins, the Van Buren County Attorney who had been ousted by a District Court judge in January 2017 after sexual harassment allegations.

Employees said Watkins would come into his office, which was attached to his home, wearing only boxer briefs and shared nude photos of his wife.

The Iowa Supreme Court — all-male at the time — ruled Watkins’ conduct, while egregious, should not have led to his ouster. He returned to his public job in July. But Watkins, who ran with no party affiliation, lost to Republican H. Craig Miller in November’s elections.

• Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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