DES MOINES — State leaders are discussing whether to go after a former Iowa agency director accused of sexual harassment to try to make him help pay for millions in legal expenses incurred after his termination.
On Monday, the state Appeal Board approved $4.15 million to settle sexual harassment legal actions brought by two female state employees against former Iowa Finance Authority director David Jamison.
Gov. Kim Reynolds and Attorney General Tom Miller are discussing the state’s options, including whether to pursue action against Jamison, Reynolds’ and Miller’s staffs said.
State Auditor Rob Sand, the lone appeal board member to vote against the settlement, suggested Jamison should be held financially accountable — and not Iowa taxpayers — for his alleged harassment.
“I don’t think we should ever lose sight of the victims. Let’s just start there,” Reynolds said during a news conference Tuesday. “We’re consulting with the AG’s office to consider what our state’s options are once the settlements are finalized.”
Reynolds said no policy can eradicate sexual harassment, but said her administration is working to create a safe working environment in state government.
“Unfortunately you can’t legislate morality (and) giving people respect,” said Reynolds, who last year fired Jamison from his $131,000-a-year state job after sexual harassment allegations against him were aired. A law firm hired to investigate later concluded allegations against him were true.
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“But what you can do is say that you have a zero-tolerance policy, you do everything you can to change the culture, you make sure that employees know that the expectation is for them to come to work and have every expectation of working in a safe environment, that they know what the process is if they see or experience sexual harassment, they know who they report that to, and they know that those allegations will be heard, and if they’re substantiated, action will be taken,” Reynolds said. “And I did that.”
Also at her news conference, Reynolds said she supports a proposed amendment saying the Iowa Constitution does not guarantee the right to an abortion.
A subcommittee meeting on the proposed amendment is scheduled for today. Changes to the state’s constitution must be passed by consecutive general assemblies and then Iowa voters.
Reynolds said she has not yet decided whether to appeal the recent district court ruling that struck down 2018 legislation that would have banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically after six weeks of pregnancy.
She also expressed support for and defended legislation introduced Monday that would overhaul the makeup of the commissions that nominate Iowa judges.
The governor appoints judges from a list of nominees created by commissions that are comprised equally of governor’s appointees and members elected by lawyers. Each commission is headed by a current judge.
Under the legislation, lawyers would no longer elect any commission members. Instead, the members would be nominated by the governor and legislative leaders.
Half of the members still would be lawyers — but chosen by politicians, not their peers.
The proposal gives weight to the political party in power at the time. For example, for the statewide commission that nominates Iowa Supreme Court justices, the party in power would name 12 members and the party out of power only four.
“We want it to be fair and we want to make sure that all Iowans are represented in the process,” Reynolds told reporters.