State report details sexual harassment claims in Arnolds Park
A top official with the Iowa Finance Authority was fired earlier this year after Gov. Kim Reynolds received reports from staff detailing sexual harassment — including an incident which occurred in the Iowa Lakes Area.
IFA Executive Director David Jamison was accused of inappropriately touching a female employee in December of 2016 at a hotel bar in Arnolds Park. The Weinhardt Law Firm of Des Moines investigated the accusations and recently released its findings. The report does not name the hotel.
"Mr. Jamison appears to have violated every enumerated example of sexual harassment except that there is no evidence that he requested or offered sexual favors in return for job benefits," the firm wrote.
Jamison categorically denies any wrongdoing, according to the report. Reynolds said the report confirmed the claims made by Jamison's accusers and said the decision to fire him was the correct one.
"While it is not a secret that Mr. Jamison and I were friends, having served as county treasurers at the same time, I had no idea that he behaved this way," Reynolds said. "I never witnessed or experienced anything like what is described in the report. Had I known, I would have fired him a long time ago. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior."
The victim submitted a letter to Reynolds' office on March 23, describing several other instances of Jamison's inappropriate behavior — including inappropriate comments and questions — in detail. Jamison was fired the next day, more than a month before the state asked Weinhardt Law to investigate.
The Arnolds Park incident was one of several claims upon which the report largely focused. One of the victims, which the report refers to only as "Witness 2," was traveling through the Lakes Area Dec. 14, 2016, and gathering video testimonials of IFA's work. She, Jamison, IFA director of Iowa Title Guaranty Tara Lawrence, former IFA Director of Government Relations Wes Peterson and videographer Dan Welk gathered at a hotel bar in Arnolds Park. Some in the group were drinking heavily, according to the report.
"Mr. Jamison put a dollar bill on the table and said to Witness 2, 'I bet a dollar that I can touch your (breasts) without putting one hand on you,'" the report said. "Mr. Jamison then grabbed her breasts. Mr. Jamison laughed. Ms. Lawrence was apparently yelling 'no, no, no.' Mr. Jamison said, 'See? I didn't put one hand on you. I put two hands on you. I win!' Although witnesses differed on the exact wording of the joke, this event was fully corroborated by Mr. Welk and Mr. Peterson."
The report also notes neither Lawrence or Peterson reported the behavior. Peterson told investigators he failed to report it at the request of Witness 2 and another employee referred to as Witness 1 — both deny such a request was made. The report says Lawrence refused to cooperate with the investigation, but she later told the Associated Press she too had been harassed by Jamison. Peterson — whom the Weinhardt report says may have aggressively attempted to discover Witness 2's identity after Jamison's firing — was himself fired Thursday, and his attorney told the AP the report contains inaccuracies.
Jamison's version of events differed from that of the other witnesses. He told investigators he was simply reciting the off-color joke, but Witness 2 seemed intrigued by the idea, to which he had replied, "Oh yeah, it's magic."
"At that point, Mr. Jamison's attorney interrupted the interview and said, 'Before he goes more into this, I want to take a break and talk to him real quick,'" the report stated. "Mr. Jamison and his attorney came back into the interview a few moments later and Mr. Jamison stated, 'I never touched her. I know other people started to allege that I did, but I did not touch her.'"
Witness 2 described several instances of harassment while the two were traveling by car to events in Nebraska and western Iowa in March of 2018, including graphic questions about her sexual experiences. Witness 2 claimed Jamison watched an instructional pornographic video on his phone during the drive.
"At one point during the video, Mr. Jamison looked down at his crotch and said, 'Can you tell when I'm excited?' Witness 2 related the incident to two female colleagues at IFA shortly after the incident," the report said. "It was this incident that precipitated Witness 1 and Witness 2 coming forward to report Mr. Jamison's behavior."
The report said IFA employees likely believed they would be fired if they reported Jamison, fearing he would either be informed of the report through the Department of Administrative Services or his friendship with the governor would protect him.
"Among many troubling issues raised by this investigation, I am frustrated Mr. Jamison created the impression that he wouldn't face consequences because of my friendship with him," Reynolds said. "That could not be further from the truth."
Reynolds said she is glad the victims felt they could come to her for help, but is sorry they felt they couldn't do so sooner.
The Weinhardt report points out language in the State Employee Handbook, which may have also led IFA employees to believe procedure would allow Jamison to investigate a complaint about his own behavior.
"While we were told by the Department of Administrative Services in this investigation that there is in fact a procedure for confidential investigation that would bypass an agency head like Mr. Jamison, we did not discover any simple way for a harassed employee to discover and take comfort in that procedure," the report said.
Reynolds said the state will take immediate action to rewrite the relevant portions of the handbook.