Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday that Democrats critical of her handling of allegations of sexual harassment by the former leader of the Iowa Finance Authority are politicizing the matter, and she suggested they’re interested in making it harder for victims to report such behavior.
During a visit to Clinton, the governor said in an interview with the Quad-City Times that Democrats are trying to turn the matter into a partisan issue, while she’s trying to protect victims and improve the workplace environment.
“I think it’s really sad, really, really sad, when you have individuals that are trying to make this a partisan issue,” the governor said after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a business. “We found out that these victims were being harassed, and within 24 hours the individual was gone. Maybe they don’t care about protecting the confidentiality of the victim, maybe they want to put additional barriers in front of victims to make it harder for them to report sexual harassment. But I’ve spoken to the victims, and that’s not what I’m interested in.”
Reynolds fired David Jamison, the former executive director of the finance authority, on March 24, a day after she learned about the allegations.
Democrats have criticized her for initially refusing to release a letter from one employee outlining her complaint.
Reynolds said she was protecting the victim’s confidentiality. Initially, the governor’s office said there were no documents related to the issue, according to the Associated Press, which filed an open records request for information.
The governor’s office eventually released a redacted copy, saying it was the woman’s right to tell the story on her terms.
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Democrats also pointed to Reynolds’ initial resistance to set up an independent review of the agency. On Friday, the governor told reporters the complaint was about one individual, Jamison, and that she’d fired him. However, later in the afternoon, she appointed a Des Moines attorney to lead an investigation into the agency.
Tess Seger, a spokesperson for the state Democratic Party, responded to the governor’s charges Tuesday by saying Reynolds “is trying to avoid responsibility for her complete mishandling of the Jamison situation, and we won’t let that happen. We fully support victims’ right to privacy but, as was echoed by nonpartisan editorial boards across the state, we do not support Reynolds’ attempts to shield her administration from public scrutiny in this matter.”
Seger added if Reynolds was serious about protecting state employees, she would have ordered an investigation immediately.
Reynolds said Tuesday the review is an important step to gathering the facts and to ensure there are not gaps in the existing process. But she added her quick action has had an impact.
“I believe that employees in this state know that things are changing,” she said.
Jamison was appointed to lead the Iowa Finance Authority in 2011 by former Gov. Terry Branstad. Jamison is a former county treasurer, and he and Reynolds also served on the state treasurers association and worked on matters related to the organization going back to 1999, according to the Associated Press.