DES MOINES — The Iowa Senate has authorized an independent investigation to look into the financial dealings of the Iowa Finance Authority and allegations of sexual impropriety involving David Jamison during the seven years the served as the agency’s executive director before he was fired by Gov. Kim Reynolds for allegedly harassing female employees.
”As a legislative branch, we have a responsibility to ensure there is a full accounting for any potential wrongdoing with regard to both conduct of IFA employees and the management of funds,” said Sen. Michael Breitbach, R-Strawberry Point, before senators authorized funding for a probe to be conducted by Des Moines private attorney Mark Weinhardt, who already was tapped by the governor and Iowa Attorney General’s Office to investigate Jamison’s conduct regarding the sexual harassment complaints that led to his abrupt employment termination in March.
“He’s not a yes man for the governor, that’s for sure,” said Breitbach, who noted that senators expanded the scope of the investigation beyond that previously had been indicated regarding the toxic IFA work environment to include spending for an agency discretionary account of up to $100,000, IFA’s use of credit cards and other expense accounts, and Jamison’s decision to authorize a $17 million office move. Other financial audits are being conducted by an IFA-hired accounting firm and State Auditor Mary Mosiman’s office.
Breitbach said the amendment attached to an economic development budget bill would allow the investigator to contract with external resources, including additional investigators, attorneys, accounting firms and computer forensic investigators to ensure there is a complete and thorough inquiry and report back to the Legislature by Dec. 1.
“We want as much to clean up this mess as anybody and it just doesn’t look good if it would appear that we’re not willing to police ourselves,” said Breitbach. “It needs to get done.”
Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines said the GOP-crafted amendment was very similar to one she had offered but hers called for the independent investigators to report back to legislators in 60 days rather than Dec. 1.
“Are you wanting this to come after the election?” Petersen said during floor debate late Tuesday night. “It’s pretty clear you don’t want taxpayers to know what’s going on in the Iowa Finance Authority until well after the gubernatorial election.”
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Republicans challenged that contention, saying they wanted to provide enough time for a thorough review of activities that date back to 2011 when Jamison was appointed by former Gov. Terry Branstad as IFA head.
“This will provide the investigator with the time they need to conduct a complete professional investigation while also ensuring that the next Legislature has the time before they gavel into session to prepare any legislation needed to address the results,” said Breitbach, chairman of the Senate Government Oversight Committee. He said it was unknown how much the investigation would cost but the funding would come from IFA’s state appropriation.
The Senate discussion of the Jamison review got intense and contentious at times with Sen. Brad Zaun, R- Urbandale, calling the former IFA leader’s conduct in the office disgusting.
“If it’s true, he’s scum,” Zaun said. “ … I was raised you call a spade a spade and right is right and wrong is wrong — and from what everything I’ve heard, this was more than wrong, the way he treated females in his office.”
Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said the Jamison saga also has raised questions for Iowans about the conduct of the governor and the governor’s office. Petersen said it was disturbing that the governor waited a month before issuing a letter “detailing the illegal and disgusting behavior of her longtime friend, David Jamison,” and shocking that his “disgusting and illegal behavior” was allowed to continue for years.
“Gov. Reynolds, state government should not be your friends and family club. Iowans don’t like cronyism. Iowans don’t think your friends deserve special benefits like unchecked slush funds,” Petersen said during a floor speech. “This Republican-run friends and family, corruption and cronyism club needs to come to an end.”
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