The truth comes out… some of it, anyway.
Yesterday’s release of the three-page document of sexual harassment claims against fired Iowa Finance Authority director Dave Jamison revealed disgusting new details and raised further questions about Reynolds’ handling of the situation. Chief among those was why Reynolds’ office had denied the existence of the document in the first place and how Jamison got away with his behavior within the agency for so long.
And the name of the victim was even inadvertently revealed to reporters and others through a document error in the initial file that the governor’s office sent out. This was in the course of Reynolds insisting that their original secrecy of the matter was all about protecting the victim’s privacy. News outlets took down the initial document and replaced it with a fixed one.
Let’s examine the further questions that the document, which you can read in full here via KCCI, now warrants.
The victim explained in explicit detail Jamison’s horrific behavior, which included asking about an employee’s breasts, trying to get female employees into his hotel room, bragging about the size of his penis, asking about employees’ sex lives and rubbing the back of a woman’s neck during a long car trip. He also seemed to realize what he was doing was sexual harassment and made at least one implied threat of retribution to a top staffer who reprimanded Jamison over it.
IFA’s legal counsel and their chief administrative officer – both men – had confronted Jamison about his behavior. Their attorney reportedly told Jamison that “he needs to stop it or be quiet.” It begs the question of how many more people were aware of Jamison’s actions.
It would also seem to necessitate a further investigation of IFA, as well as state government’s ongoing handling of sexual harassment issues. Clearly, the reporting system is not working very well if employees fear DAS will ignore their complaints or they’ll get fired in retaliation. And the two IFA staffers who warned Jamison, but took no further action, should come under closer scrutiny.
Has Reynolds pursued an internal investigation of IFA? Or did her actions simply stop at firing Jamison? The public wouldn’t have known the extent of IFA’s internal problems had this report not been made public.
“I can’t go back, I don’t know, but I can change things going forward,” Reynolds said when asked by WHO-TV multiple times if the two male staffers should have done something different or if they should face consequences.
That’s a very odd answer. Two high-ranking staffers at IFA knew about Jamison’s grotesque behavior and didn’t report it to anyone else. There should be consequences for that. And if there’s not, then how is Reynolds changing the culture of state government? All she’s offering is a message to staffers that they can report harassment to DAS (the IFA employees were too afraid to) or her own office.
Reynolds fired Jamison within a day of the IFA employees approaching her office. Good for her. It’s hard to see how she could have done anything but, considering the severity of the accusations. And she has repeatedly insisted that her refusal to release any more details of it was to protect the victim’s identity. A very noble goal. But is that the whole story?
As I noted before, the big tell that this may not be the full reason is that her office outright denied to the AP that any documentation existed earlier this week. Given how incendiary the IFA employee’s three-page complaint was, it’s impossible to accept that people in the governor’s office didn’t know it existed. That immediately raises suspicion that the governor’s office pretended it didn’t exist in the hopes it would never see the light of day.
Part of that was certainly because Reynolds wanted to honor the victim’s request to stay anonymous. But could the document really have been released without identifying the person? Reynolds only made it public after the victim agreed to its release and had personally redacted parts of it (once it was clear an open records request might bring it out anyway).
Again, read the full complaint for yourself. An outsider wouldn’t be able to identify anyone by it, though a fellow IFA employee might. But you can also see where they could have redacted even more specifics to just narrow it to instances where multiple employees witnessed Jamison’s behavior.
Regardless, there was a middle ground here that Reynolds chose not to pursue, compounding problems of potential secrecy. Reynolds could have provided further details, as many asked for, without putting out the full document. How hard would it have been to explain that employees alleged Jamison’s behavior was ongoing, that he asked women in the office sexually inappropriate questions, that he tried to take them to his hotel room or that he was warned repeatedly about it?
That would have accomplished two things that the public deserved to know. One, that Jamison’s behavior was so abhorrent that he shouldn’t be hired for any job again. And two, that there are clearly ongoing problems within IFA and state government as a whole, including employees’ fears about reporting harassment to DAS.
That might have satisfied some, but instead she obfuscated, so reporters kept digging.
So, the other question to ask is whether there may have been a reason for Reynolds to want to withhold the details beyond the victim’s privacy.
As mentioned previously, the fact that this was ongoing in a major Iowa agency is deeply concerning. Despite it being known by legal counsel and top staff, it continued – proving that Iowa’s sexual harassment training and reporting process is still deeply broken despite Reynolds’ promises.
The employee said she was afraid DAS would just bury her complaint. Why is that? Is it because leaders there knew that Reynolds and Jamison were friends? “I know you’re friends with Dave and I hate to put this on your shoulders,” the victim wrote. Was Jamison able to get away with other improper behavior due to his known friendship with the governor? Including wasteful spending like the Des Moines Register reported on yesterday?
The counter-argument to that of course is if it was such a concern that Reynolds might cover for Jamison, the employee probably wouldn’t have gone straight to Reynolds’ office. She fired him, so there you go.
Finally, it’s possible that Reynolds wanted to protect an old friend from further embarrassment and future career problems. You could see a situation where, had this never been released, Jamison could have told a future potential employer (probably one run by men) that he was simply canned because he told some inappropriate jokes, some folks were too “sensitive,” and in this political climate, what could you do.
This document is a professional death sentence for Jamison (as it should be). This is the work of a horrific human being. No one should hire him in any capacity.
But it’s hard to imagine that Reynolds wasn’t completely, utterly disgusted with the behavior laid out in the document, and that this isn’t why she withheld the document at first.
The most likely scenario was that Reynolds and her office completely bungled their explanation and response to the matter. That, too, should give Iowans pause about the governor’s leadership in these situations. And they should really, really question her hesitance to further investigate IFA or bring consequences down on the two male staffers who failed to do more.
by Pat Rynard