There were even more problems at the Iowa Finance Authority during former director Dave Jamison’s tenure than sexual harassment, claims a former staffer who has filed a discrimination complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Gabrielle Riesterer, who worked as the assistant to the Iowa Title Guarantee director from December of 2015 to September of 2017, alleges she was targeted for her Hispanic heritage. She also detailed questionable financial decisions and lack of professionalism in the office to Starting Line, as well as a fear about crossing Jamison due to his connections.
“It was run like a good-old-boy system,” Riesterer told Starting Line recently. “All of the bosses were drinking buddies. They all would go out on Fridays or take off early and they would be gone. If it weren’t for 80% of the workers, it would have shut down years ago.”
Her public complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission accuses Dave Jamison and her own direct boss of firing her with no explanation. She believes it was due to her being the only Hispanic person at IFA (you can view photos of about two-thirds of IFA’s staff on their website – they do all at least appear to be caucasian).
In the sexual harassment complaint document released by Governor Kim Reynolds’ office yesterday, the employee said that “Dave [Jamison] tells sexist and racist jokes and expects you to go along with them.”
In April or May of 2017, Riesterer said she was called into Jamison’s office and told she cannot eat in the lunch room with the other employees. She said she was given no reason for this, and that Jamison said there weren’t any complaints about her. Shortly after, Riesterer emailed Jamison and her boss to complain that it was an unreasonable request. She said she did not get a response from either person.
A few weeks later she approached Brian Crozier, IFA’s chief administrative officer. Riesterer recalled he agreed it was unreasonable and would contact DAS’ human resources contact for IFA. A few months later, Crozier allegedly told Riesterer that DAS replied by saying, “this wasn’t a battle they were willing to take on right now.” Crozier is named in the Jamison sexual harassment document as one of the two staffers that warned Jamison about his behavior. At the end of September, Riesterer was fired, again with no explanation.
“I had never once in my tenure there at IFA been informally or formally disciplined for any reason, all of my performance reviews were very positive in nature,” she wrote in her official complaint. “I have no other reason to believe that I was discriminated against for my race and age.”
Beyond her discrimination complaint, Riesterer confirmed several internal problems at IFA that have recently been reported on. The Des Moines Register reported on Thursday that IFA’s $17 million plan to relocate their offices to a new facility was seen as “wasteful.” A third-party review of IFA’s current building concluded that such a move was not necessary and that repairs to their current location would be minimal. However, those concerns were omitted from Jamison’s recommendation to the state for approval.
“They’re doing fine at the building that they’re in, but [Jamison] wanted something fancier,” Riesterer told Starting Line before the Register report surfaced. “He’s got designers coming in, asking all the staff what they want. It was a pretty big deal to get into this new office building.”
She also said there were concerns among IFA staff that they would attract criticism for the expensive move.
Riesterer additionally suggested that IFA directors were using credit cards paid for by the agency to get around stricter reimbursement rules with DAS. Starting Line reached out to DAS to see if this might have been an approved method of operating for IFA, but did not hear back.
Riesterer also questioned the professionalism of Jamison in the office.
“Dave was hardly in the office,” she explained. One of her co-workers apparently once discovered Jamison asleep in his car outside the building during the work day.
The sexual harassment complaint suggested this was a common occurrence as well.
“Dave is constantly pestering me and others to go out drinking with him,” the employee wrote in her letter to Reynolds. “His behavior is worse when he drinks. He wants me to attend events with him that do not pertain to my job. It seems like every time I try and discuss a work issue, he ignores it and talks about sex instead.”
The sexual harassment accusations were not a surprise to Riesterer, who explained that “Dave liked to surround himself with better-looking people.” She alleged that Jamison preferred to hire younger and less-experienced women, including for roles like the human resources position. “He wanted people who could be easily intimidated,” she said.
Before Jamison’s firing, most in the office were too afraid to challenge him on that or anything else.
“Nobody would go against Jamison, because they knew if they did, they would get fired,” Riesterer explained.
The sexual harassment complaint document mirrored some of these concerns.
“I think DAS will just cover for him and I’ll end up without a job,” the woman wrote.
Things apparently got worse once Reynolds became governor last May.
“Once Reynolds got into office, Jamison was barely ever in the office,” Riesterer said, adding that Jamison was only around about once or twice a week at that point. “There was more traveling, there was more him just being gone.”
Jamison was fired by Reynolds in March after IFA employees went to Reynolds’ chief of staff with a list of sexual harassment complaints.
by Pat Rynard