Government

Iowa governor: Sexual harassment firing sends 'really strong message'

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during an “Unleashing Opportunity” event at Aunt Emmy's in Manchester on Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during an “Unleashing Opportunity” event at Aunt Emmy's in Manchester on Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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DES MOINES — Without providing details to the public, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday she had acted promptly on “credible allegations” of sexual harassment in firing a longtime colleague and member of her administration over the weekend without having talked to him.

“They were credible allegations. That’s all I needed,” Reynolds said about the weekend termination of Dave Jamison, who had led the Iowa Finance Authority since then-Gov. Terry Branstad appointed him seven years ago.

“As I’ve said time and time again, my administrations has a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual harassment,” the governor said. She offered no details of the nature of the allegations, saying she wanted to protect the complaints.

“For the victims, coming forward is a hard thing to do,” said Reynolds, an Osceola Republican. “It takes courage. So at request of the victims and to protect their privacy and their identity, there is only so much I can say about the details of the allegations.”

The victims made their allegations Friday to her chief of staff, Jake Ketzner. Saturday morning, Reynolds met with him, her legal counsel and David Roederer and Janet Phipps, directors of the departments of Management and Administrative Services, respectively.

She did not and has not talked to Jamison, Reynolds said, and did not indicate whether attempts were made to verify the allegations.

Jamison could not be reached for comment.

Jamison, she said, was an at-will employee who could be terminated without cause. Reynolds said she was not aware of any other complaints against Jamison, who she has known since they both were county treasurers as well as through GOP politics and serving in state government. Jamison had joined Reynolds at her weekly news conference March 5 to launch House Wise Iowa in conjunction with the Iowa Association of Realtors.

The agency he oversaw focused on affordable housing and community development. He last year earned $131,391.

“I hope this sends a really strong message,” said Reynolds, who required all executive branch employees, including directors, to take sexual harassment training before May 1. She indicted Jamison had taken the training.

Part of that training is to let employees know there is a process for filing a complaint “and their complaint will be heard,” Reynolds said.

“I can’t legislate morality. I can’t pass a law that says everybody treats everybody with respect,” Reynolds said. “But I can lead and I can set an expectation and that’s what I did. I heard about it and I took action. That should let every employee know that if they are experiencing this, that it won’t be tolerated. They will be heard. Action will be taken. That simple.”

Sexual harassment has become a major issue at the Statehouse since the state paid $1.75 million last year to settle a lawsuit brought by Kirsten Anderson, a former Senate Republican caucus staff member who asserted she was fired in 2013 hours after complaining of sexual harassment.

In the wake of the payout, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix ordered an investigation of sexual harassment in the Statehouse. But he initially refused to release it.

At the time, Reynolds called for it to be made public. “I understand that we need to be cognizant of personal information, but I think there’s a way to do that where you can protect personal information. I think that they need to do that,” she said then.

Dix, R-Shell Rock, eventually did release the report.

But then earlier this month, Dix abruptly resigned from the Senate after a video surfaced showing him in a Des Moines bar apparently kissing a female lobbyist who was not his wife.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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