A five-month investigation by a Des Moines law firm found former Iowa Finance Authority Director David Jamison did sexually harass women on his staff, in one case grabbing his subordinate’s breasts and in another watching a pornographic video on his phone while he and a woman were alone on a work-related trip.
The Weinhardt Law Firm said it based the 35-page report released Thursday on interviews with 29 current and former employees of the state agency, witnesses not employed by the state and “high-level decision-makers” in government including Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The firm also interviewed Jamison, who led the agency from 2011 until he was fired in March after a female employee complained to Reynolds about harassment. The agency he led focuses on housing assistance, especially for low- and moderate-income housing. Following Jamison’s ouster, Reynolds asked Weinhardt to conduct a full inquiry.
“We have concluded based on our investigation that Mr. Jamison indeed engaged in sexually harassing conduct,” the report stated. “Mr. Jamison categorically denies any wrongdoing. His position is that the events described by Witness 1 and Witness 2 are simply false. Based on the totality of our investigation, we do not find Mr. Jamison’s denials to be credible.”
Investigators found Jamison most often committed sexual acts or made sexual comments within a small group, which witnesses said he called his “Circle of Trust,” with whom he frequently socialized and drank alcohol. Besides the two key witnesses, the circle included Tara Lawrence, director of Iowa Title Guaranty, and Wes Peterson, director of government relations.
“None of Mr. Jamison’s sexual harassment, however, was known in parts of state government outside of IFA,” the report stated. “Indeed, the most egregious acts by Mr. Jamison were only personally known by four people at IFA: Witness 1, Witness 2, Ms. Lawrence, and Mr. Peterson.”
Witness 1 told investigators Jamison grabbed her breasts with both his hands while they were drinking with other employees on a work-related trip in the Okoboji area in December 2016. Jamison did this in the context of a joke about a dollar bill, investigators said. In ensuing months, he would reference the joke by saying “bet you a dollar” to the woman or showing her a $1 bill, the report stated.
Two other people on the Okoboji trip recounted the incident similarly, the report stated.
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Jamison told investigators he remembers bringing up the joke, but said before he could execute it, his attorney asked him to leave the room for a minute. “I never touched her. I know other people started to allege that I did, but I did not touch her,” he told investigators.
Witness 2 described a work-related road trip in which she was driving and Jamison was in the passenger seat. He asked her questions about sex, the report stated. Also during this trip, Jamison used his cellphone to watch a pornographic video, the report stated.
Jamison recalled to investigators driving alone with the woman on a return trip from Omaha, but denied any inappropriate behavior.
Investigators found the women targeted by Jamison saw their pay increase dramatically during their time at the agency, perhaps contributing to their fear of “adverse employment consequences” if they reported his behavior, the report stated.
“Witness 1’s salary was approximately $50,000 when she began working at IFA,” the report stated. “When Mr. Jamison hired her, however, he promised her that he would increase her salary after six months. By the time she left IFA in 2018, her salary had increased approximately 60 percent.”
In addition to acts described by Witness 1 and 2, other witnesses said Jamison made sexual jokes or comments.
Brian Crozier, the agency’s chief of staff, told investigators he was offended when Jamison made an offensive remark about another employee being attracted to black women.
“Mr. Crozier found this particularly insulting and inappropriate because his wife is African-American. Mr. Crozier described these kinds of sexual remarks and speculation as common for Mr. Jamison,” the report stated.
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Witnesses said Jamison frequently mentioned his friendship with Reynolds. Both served as county treasurers at the same time. Some witnesses said his behavior worsened after Reynolds became governor in May 2017.
Reynolds released a statement Thursday: “While it is not a secret that Mr. Jamison and I were friends, having served as county treasurers at the same time, I had no idea that he behaved this way. I never witnessed or experienced anything like what is described in the report. Had I known, I would have fired him a long time ago. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior.”
She continued: “Among many troubling issues raised by this investigation, I am frustrated that Mr. Jamison created the impression that he wouldn’t face consequences because of my friendship with him. That could not be further from the truth.”
The report found the state’s sexual harassment policies should be clearer about how a complaint against a director should be handled.
“We will immediately take up this issue and make that change,” Reynolds stated.
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