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Iowa governor rejects calls for broader harassment inquiry

Iowa governor rejects calls for broader harassment inquiry

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds rejected calls Friday for a broader investigation into problems at a state agency where the director allegedly sexually harassed female employees for years without consequence.

In a brief interview with reporters at the state Capitol, Reynolds said the culture of inappropriate behavior at the Iowa Finance Authority was caused by "one individual and I fired him," referring to former director Dave Jamison. She acknowledged other employees witnessed or experienced some of Jamison's problematic behavior but indicated she had no plans to hold them accountable for failing to report it. She argued that those staffers may have feared retaliation if they reported the alleged behavior.

Reynolds also dismissed criticism that the current sexual harassment training in state government — which Jamison took — doesn't work if someone commits misconduct.

"I've made it pretty clear that I can't legislate or dictate proper behavior. You can't. You do everything that you can. You make sure people understand what that constitutes, sexual harassment. And you make sure that they understand what the process is and that they know that there's a place to go."

Reynolds fired Jamison last month, a day after two employees told the governor's office that he had been sexually harassing them. Reynolds released a complaint from one of the women Thursday that alleged Jamison made unwanted sexual advances, comments about her breasts and constant crude sexual remarks and gestures.

The woman wrote that a male agency lawyer often told Jamison "that he needs to stop it or be quiet," and that a male agency administrator had reprimanded Jamison for inappropriate comments. Reynolds said she understood that they may have feared retaliation if they stepped forward to complain, but said she hopes other state employees who witness improper behavior will do so in the future through several available avenues.

An attorney for one of the women who complained, Paige Fiedler, said in an interview Thursday that any "responsible employer" would typically investigate such complaints to determine the extent of the problems, who was aware of them and why they weren't reported. Fiedler, a prominent attorney for sexual harassment victims, said such inquiries happen even after the perpetrator has been fired because there are lessons to be learned.

"A lot of those management folks knew what was going on. I think everybody had the moral obligation and the obligation under the state's policies to report it," she said.

Fiedler said she believed that employees feared retaliation, and that Jamison had created an environment where such behavior was tolerated.

"He had made the culture of that department such that, everybody seemed to think that was just what you did there. This was the way that he ran things," she said.

Jamison hasn't spoken publicly about the allegations, but said in a text message Friday he was planning to do so "soon."

Democratic lawmakers have called for an independent investigation, saying it's important to know the details of any prior complaints against Jamison and how they were handled.

Interim IFA Director Carolann Jensen said Thursday that there is no pending investigation at the agency and that the governor's office hasn't reached out about launching one.

"This is not indicative of the work environment at the Iowa Finance Authority," she said. "Clearly the bad apple has been dismissed."

Updated : 2021-07-24 02:04 GMT+08:00