Governor Kim Reynolds acted swiftly and decisively in firing Dave Jamison upon being informed of “credible” allegations of sexual harassment. Except, wait, we can’t tell you about what any of those allegations were. Oh, and also, there was no written documentation of the complaint or our decision. No… no, hang on, there actually was documentation, but you can’t see it or FOIA it despite a law saying you can.
The latest twists and turns of the Jamison firing have been confusing, to say the least. Yesterday’s bizarre announcement by the governor’s office that they indeed did have documented complaint details on Jamison after denying their existence hours before added a new wrinkle to the mess. Reynolds likely hoped that Jamison’s dismissal would be a one-day news story, but the continuing questions surrounding the situation don’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Jamison was personally fired by Reynolds as the director of the Iowa Finance Authority back on Saturday, March 24. The previous day, some employee from the department came to Reynolds’ office and informed her chief of staff about instances of sexual harassment allegedly done by Jamison. Reynolds originally touted her decision in the weeks after she made it, calling it a clear signal of her “zero-tolerance” stance on sexual harassment in the government workplace (but please forget that she didn’t call for Bill Dix to step down last year).
But that back-patting seems odd now as Reynolds’ office appears to be covering up any and all details about the allegations and how Reynolds made her decision to act. They argue it’s to protect the identity of the employee who came forward, but haven’t explained why they can’t simply omit the person’s name or any identifying details. It also appears to run counter to the new law passed by Republicans last year making the details of state employees’ firings public record.
As far as we know, no further fact-finding efforts were made after the initial, in-person complaint. Jamison didn’t seem to get a chance to defend himself. Whatever happened at IFA, the allegation must have either been so egregious that immediate termination was warranted or the staffer had incontrovertible proof – like inappropriate text messages or screenshots or a recording of something. Even if you have a “zero-tolerance” stance on sexual harassment, you probably don’t immediately fire someone without a process to investigate or unless you have clear, undeniable proof. All the governor’s office said was that it was “credible.”
As the AP’s investigation showed, Jamison had emailed Reynolds’ office to set up a meeting with her to catch up just a few days before his firing. It seemed their friendship was fine the week prior to his firing, meaning whatever the allegation or proof presented to Reynolds’ staff was damning.
So, several questions remain. What kind of sexual harassment was Jamison accused of? Did he repeatedly make lewd jokes around the office? Was he ever warned about his behavior and didn’t stop? Or was it something especially awful, like making advances on an employee and then threatening her job when she rebuffed him? We don’t know.
And why did the employee go straight to the governor’s office? Is there fear of retaliation in Iowa departments, and why is that?
The biggest tell here that something is fishy is that Reynolds’ office originally told the AP they had no formal records or documentation surrounding the allegations and firing. That seemed impossible to believe, and indeed, it ended up being so.
Reynolds’ staff called it a simple error. The other potential is that there’s something in those documents they don’t want in the public. And they only admitted to their existence when they realized they might be forced to reveal them at some point (better to disclose their existence now then be really embarrassed later). Their argument that it doesn’t fall under the opens record law could be challenged, and we may yet see what those documents contain.
In any case, this entire debacle seems far from over.
by Pat Rynard