Iowa’s Sexual Harassment Problem Starts At The Top, Too

Iowa Senate Republicans’ disgusting sexual harassment behavior cost you as an Iowa taxpayer $1.75 million. That was the settlement reached to end a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Kirsten Anderson, the former Communication Director for the Iowa Senate Republicans. That payment ended the lawsuit but it shouldn’t end the investigation of Senator Bill Dix. Dix is the Senate Republican Majority Leader responsible for providing a safe and harassment-free work environment in the Senate offices. Anderson sued claiming she was fired because she complained about continuing sexual harassment and the toxic work environment in the Republican senate offices.

Dix has never explained how and why this toxic sexual behavior was allowed to continue after it was brought to his attention. Anderson worked in that office for five years before she was fired in May of 2013.

Senator Dix fought this lawsuit, claiming Anderson was fired based on poor work performance. Seven hours before her firing, she presented a list of harassment complaints to her supervisor. It’s obvious following the trial her claims were valid.

Dix denied he knew anything about this abhorrent behavior in his office before the lawsuit.  However, another Republican, Senator Rick Bertrand, contradicted Dix’s claim that he knew nothing about this hostile work environment until reporters asked him in May 2013. Bertrand said that in December 2012, “Dix had a Republican caucus staff meeting to address sexual harassment complaints and told staff members to stop inappropriate activity.” Why would Dix have that meeting in 2012 and claim he didn’t know of sexual harassment until May 2013? “Senator Dix has a huge credibility problem,” Bertrand said. “Current leadership has now become all about how to protect and preserve itself.”

Senator Dix could have saved some money for the state had he simply started investigating the validity of Anderson’s claims when she sued. Anderson had offered to settle for $1.25 million before pursuing her lawsuit. Why didn’t Dix investigate the truth of her allegations and save the state $500,000?

Five separate staffers and co-workers testified and verified much of Anderson’s allegations, yet Dix claims he was unaware of this behavior. During the trial Tom Ashworth, an attorney and staff analyst who worked for the Senate Republicans, told jurors that, “neither his boss or Senate leaders have ever asked him “a single question” about what he’s experienced in the office, despite all the publicity over Anderson’s litigation.”

Senator Dix never fired Jim Friedrich, the primary perpetrator of this harassment. Friedrich was allowed to continue to work in the Senate office until his resignation last month. Why was he kept on the payroll after the trial verified his repulsive behavior? Court testimony detailed how Friedrich, an Iowa Republican Senate government oversight analyst, shared nude female photos, circulated a “hot chick report”, used the c-word in describing women and used racial slurs. The jury heard testimony that Friedrich teased women about their sex lives and called women “prudes” if they didn’t respond to his taunts. How could Dix continue to retain such a dangerous harasser following the lawsuit and trial?

Immediately following the trial, Dix still claimed Anderson was fired based on her work performance. “I am disappointed in the verdict announced this afternoon. Kirsten Anderson was terminated only for her poor work product and absolutely no other reason,” Dix wrote.

Dix has never apologized or admitted he knew anything about this harassment prior to the trial testimony.  Following the settlement, Dix said, “at the end of the day it’s one of those things where state employees are involved and this kind of thing happens all the time across state government.” That answer suggests he is dismissing the serious consequences of tolerating such toxic office behavior.

Other state Republican leaders have spoken out forcefully to condemn this unacceptable behavior. State Auditor Mary Mosiman, who approved the settlement, apologized. Mosiman said, “This should not happen.” Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann stated that he would never tolerate this kind of behavior in his office.

The public deserves answers to several of the still unanswered questions. If Senator Dix continues to stonewall, he needs to resign. Governor Reynolds should quit defending Dix, demand a thorough investigation and direct Republicans to repay the $1.75 million to the state treasury due to their mismanagement.


by Rick Smith
Posted 10/20/17

3 Comments on "Iowa’s Sexual Harassment Problem Starts At The Top, Too"

  • Along with Senator Dix, Governor Kim Reynolds has been at best sad regarding forcefully condemning this behavior….Should make note of that.

  • So, they are (now) speaking out “forcefully” that this despicable behavior. OK, where were they years ago?! At a minimum, Gov. Reynolds should do as Rick has demanded. And come election- time, these neantertals’ heads need to roll.

  • Rick, may I have permission to quote the entirety of this essay in a letter to the editor to the Iowa Falls Times-Citizen? Sen. Dix is our state senator, and the newspaper has published nothing about this issue.

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