DES MOINES --- State leaders are discussing whether to pursue financial recompense from a former state agency director charged with sexual harassment.
The state Appeal Board on Monday approved a $4.15 million settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by two women 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 staff said Tuesday.
State auditor Rob Sand, the lone appeal board member to vote against the settlement Monday, suggested Jamison should be held financially accountable for his alleged harassment, not Iowa taxpayers.
“I don’t think we should ever lose sight of the victims. Let’s just start there,” Reynolds said. “We’re consulting with the AG’s office to consider what our state’s options are once the settlements are finalized.”
The approved settlements bring to nearly $6 million the amount the appeal board has agreed to pay out over the last 15 months to settle allegations from state employees who say they were subjected to sexual harassment from superiors.
In October 2017, the board approved a $1.75 million payout to Kirsten Anderson, a former Iowa Senate Republican staff member who said she was fired the day she lodged a sexual harassment complaint.
Reynolds said no policy can eradicate sexual harassment, but said her administration is working constantly to create a safe working environment in state government.
“Unfortunately you can’t legislate morality (and) giving people respect,” Reynolds said. “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. And I did that.”
Reynolds said she supports a proposed constitutional amendment that would state the Iowa Constitution does not guarantee the right to an abortion.
A subcommittee meeting on the proposed amendment is scheduled for Wednesday. 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 legislation passed in 2018 that banned abortions after a heartbeat can be detected.
Reynolds expressed her support for and defended legislation introduced Monday that would overhaul the makeup of the commissions that nominate judges to Iowa courts.
The governor appoints judges from a list of nominees created by commissions that are comprised equally of governor’s appointees and members elected by attorneys. Each commission is headed by a current judge.
Under the legislation, the attorneys would no longer elect any commission members. Instead, commission members would be nominated by the governor and legislative leaders.
Half of the members would be required to be attorneys, but those attorneys will be chosen by politicians, not their peers.
The proposal gives weight to the political party in power. For example, on the statewide commission the party in power would nominate 12 commission members and the party out of power only four. The legislation says nominees should be chosen regardless of political affiliation, but there is no mechanism to guarantee that. Other state boards, for example, are required to be politically balanced.
Reynolds said the changes are to ensure commission members are elected in a more representative fashion by removing attorneys from the process.
“We want it to be fair and we want to make sure that all Iowans are represented in the process,” Reynolds said.