- Associated Press - Monday, March 26, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday she abruptly fired one of her longtime political allies after her staff received allegations that the official had sexually harassed multiple employees.

The Republican governor told reporters she learned about “credible” complaints of misconduct by Iowa Finance Authority director David Jamison on Friday night. She announced his termination Saturday, even though she said Monday she hasn’t spoken with him about the allegations. Reynolds‘ staff confirmed the victims are state employees.

“Sexual harassment will not be tolerated in my administration,” said Reynolds, who became Iowa’s first female governor last year.

Reynolds did not elaborate on the nature of the allegations against Jamison, insisting she wouldn’t give more specifics in order to protect those who complained. She said the employees did not file complaints within the agency and instead contacted her chief of staff.

“At the request of the victims and to protect their privacy and their identity, there is only so much that I can say about the details of the allegations,” Reynolds said.

Jamison, 60, didn’t respond to phone and email messages seeking comment Monday.

His termination was a surprise because Reynolds and Jamison had been longtime allies, dating back to when they both served as county treasurers. They ran in 2010 as part of the statewide GOP ticket, when Reynolds ascended to lieutenant governor as Gov. Terry Branstad’s running mate and Jamison lost a race for state treasurer.

Branstad then appointed Jamison in 2011 to run the Iowa Finance Authority, which oversees several housing programs and administers loan programs for water infrastructure and agricultural and economic development. Jamison and Reynolds appeared together earlier this month at a news conference to tout Iowa’s home ownership programs.

Jamison’s termination, which comes amid a renewed focus on workplace sexual misconduct, is the latest sexual harassment problem for Republicans who control Iowa’s state government.

Last year, the state shelled out $1.75 million to the former communications director of the Iowa Senate Republican caucus after a jury ruled she was wrongly fired for complaining about a culture of verbal sexual harassment.

The person who oversaw that staffer’s firing was then-Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix. He abruptly resigned from the leadership post and as a lawmaker earlier this month, after a video was published that showed him kissing a Statehouse lobbyist. The woman later resigned from her job with the Iowa League of Cities.

Iowa Democrats highlighted Dix’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations in criticizing Reynolds‘ response to Jamison’s firing. Iowa Democratic Party spokeswoman Tess Seger said in statement that Jamison’s firing has been “shrouded in secrecy.”

“Iowans deserve to know the full facts around this abuse of public trust in the Iowa Finance Authority, and Governor Kim Reynolds needs to be transparent to ensure such harassment is not allowed to occur in the future,” she said.

Reynolds said she mandated in February that all executive branch employees take existing sexual harassment training again by May 1. She said the training emphasizes that employees can take complaints to the governor’s office instead of other agencies and that it appears to have worked in this case. She added that Jamison had also completed the training.

As IFA director, Jamison managed a staff that has long been predominantly female. Nearly two-thirds of the agency’s 96 employees are women, according to its current staff roster.

Gary Dickey, a Democrat who served as former Gov. Tom Vilsack’s general counsel, said the abrupt termination suggests that Reynolds was presented with compelling evidence of wrongdoing. Normally, an accused cabinet official would be given the opportunity to resign or to contest allegations, he said.

Dickey also said it was rare for the state to publicize the reason behind a high-ranking official’s departure, noting that agencies routinely call that confidential personnel information. But he said agencies often will release such information if it’s “politically expedient.”

___

Associated Press writer Scott Stewart in Des Moines contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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