DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday ordered an independent review of the work environment at the Iowa Finance Authority that led to the March 24 firing of executive director David Jamison over sexual harassment allegations.
That dismissal came after two years of what one employee called “disgusting and abhorrent behavior” that had gone unreported by IFA staff due to retaliation fears.
The governor issued a statement Friday afternoon indicating she has asked Des Moines lawyer Mark Weinhardt to head an investigation and report his findings back to her staff and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
Weinhardt was directed to look into the conduct that led to Jamison’s firing and any similar incidents or conduct during his tenure as executive director.
He also has been tasked with investigating “what was known at IFA about these matters and the appropriateness of the response to them,” according to the governor’s office.
“Since the victims reported these horrible allegations, their safety and privacy have been my top priority,” Reynolds said in a statement Friday afternoon.
“Now that one of the victims has made the decision to release the specific details of the harassment, I am ordering an independent review of David Jamison’s conduct and what was known about it.”
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Reynolds fired Jamison last month, one day after receiving multiple “credible allegations” of sexual harassment by Jamison, who was a longtime colleague of hers. She said she took swift action after consulting with advisers.
“I’ve made it pretty clear that I can’t legislate or dictate proper behavior. You can’t,” Reynolds told reporters. “You do everything that you can. You make sure that people understand what constitutes sexual harassment and you make sure they know what the process is and that they know that there is a place to go and that they will be heard, and it doesn’t matter if you’re at the top or the middle or the bottom.”
Friday afternoon’s announcement came just hours after Reynolds had told a group of Statehouse reporters that the toxic culture of sexual harassment in the Iowa Finance Authority was due to Jamison alone and she did not believe any additional inquiry was needed beyond his firing in regard to other staff who failed to report it fearing retaliation.
One day after releasing a redacted letter from an unidentified IFA employee who approved the disclosure outlining details of what Reynolds called “disgusting and abhorrent behavior” from Jamison that made women feel unsafe at work, the governor indicated she considered the matter dealt with.
Reynolds said she did not expect other staff to face additional questions about the ongoing hostile work environment.
Reynolds said it would create a climate of fear among state employees if she were to investigate this case further.
“It was reported that the culture with that was for one individual and I fired him. One individual was who the complaint was made about,” Reynolds told reporters Friday. “They potentially felt that they would be retaliated against also,” she added in discussing the difficult situation created for other IFA employees.
She said two employees came to her staff with “credible” allegations of sexual harassment, but she viewed the rest of the agency’s staff to be victims as well.
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The redacted complaint against Jamison that the governor’s office released Thursday contained allegations of lurid comments that he made to women in the office, rebuffed warnings and escalated an environment to where “it is not safe for women to be around him” because of his inappropriate gestures and touching.
The four-page complaint by a woman working for the authority details encounters over a number of years with Jamison. The letter named two male IFA employees — an agency administrator and a lawyer — who had “reprimanded” Jamison in the office for his conduct, but neither man reported Jamison’s behavior to others outside the agency.
The assertions made against Jamison in the redacted statement include incidents that occurred while the woman was traveling with him on state business. Among them are allegations he engaged in inappropriate and uninvited touching, asked suggestive questions about her anatomy and speculated she was “naughty.”
When a co-worker scolded Jamison for his comments, the complainant said he responded by saying, “You must be allergic to a paycheck.” Also, Jamison appeared to be aware that his actions were inappropriate, telling co-workers ”you know, you could sue me,” the letter said.
“The No. 1 priority in all of this was to maintain the confidentiality that the victims had asked and requested me to do. So that’s what we based everything that we did from, was to maintain the confidentiality that they asked from us. It’s a small office so we had to be very careful and we were limited to what we could do that wouldn’t potentially erode that confidentiality and that trust that they placed in me,” she noted.
Legislative Democrats on Thursday had called for an investigation following the release of the victim’s complaint against Jamison that they said detailed how senior members of Reynolds’ administration knew about the abuse and did not act.
“Once again Gov. Reynolds has shown that she cannot be trusted to handle the rampant sexual harassment happening in her own administration,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price. “It’s been over a month since she received this complaint, and it was only after building pressure from Democratic legislators that Reynolds finally ordered an investigation into the abuse and harassment that had been permitted to continue for years under her watch.”
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