DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday she never knew of or witnessed inappropriate behavior during her two-decade friendship with a former state agency director she abruptly fired after learning of sexual harassment allegations.
The Republican governor said “absolutely not” when asked at a press conference of her knowledge of any inappropriate conduct by Dave Jamison, the ex-director of the Iowa Finance Authority. Reynolds fired Jamison on March 24, shortly after learning of allegations against him by two women, including one who said he made crude sexual comments to female subordinates and twice asked her into his hotel room during work trips.
Reynolds has ordered an independent investigation into the workplace culture at the IFA.
“This is an opportunity for us to go in with an outside review and make sure that we have the facts when we are looking at processes,” the governor said, noting that Jamison “has been a friend of mine and of our family.”
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Jamison has been a longtime political ally of Reynolds, dating back to when they both served as county treasurers. They ran in 2010 as part of the statewide GOP ticket, and Jamison was tapped to lead the IFA in 2011 after he unsuccessfully ran for state treasurer.
Reynolds has faced criticism over how she handled Jamison’s firing. The governor said she acted swiftly after she was told of credible allegations, but she waited more than a month to release more than basic information to the public.
She initially indicated she wouldn’t order an independent investigation, but she changed course on Friday, after releasing a redacted letter from a woman offering graphic details about Jamison’s behavior. Reynolds has said she was trying to protect the privacy of the women involved.
The letter was released Thursday in response to open records requests from The Associated Press. Reynolds’ staff initially said it didn’t have documentation about the case, then backtracked days later by blaming an office error.
The letter alleges Jamison made sexual innuendos and remarks about his sexual history and female subordinates’ bodies. The woman who wrote the letter also said he twice pressured her to go into his hotel room during work trips.
The governor’s office said the letter is the only documentation it has about allegations against Jamison. Another woman contacted the governor’s office at the time the letter was submitted, but Reynolds on Monday declined to provide more information about those separate allegations.
“It’s really important when you’re changing the culture in state government, which I have said we are going to do, that if the victim requests confidentiality, that we honor that,” the governor said.
Jamison, 60, hasn’t spoken publicly about the allegations. He said in a text message Friday he was planning to do so “soon.”
Prominent white-collar attorney Mark Weinhardt will lead the investigation into Jamison’s conduct during his seven-year tenure as IFA director and what was known “about these matters and the appropriateness of the response to them.” The woman who wrote the letter alleges at least two male IFA employees were aware of some behavior.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office said Monday it wasn’t immediately clear how much the investigation might cost.
Reynolds also said new leadership at the IFA, which promotes home ownership and municipal infrastructure, will use a third-party auditing firm to look into the agency’s finances. That topic has been raised in recent days amid public questions over whether IFA’s plan to move to a new location is cost effective. Reynolds said agency officials have assured her it is.
Iowa Democrats said Monday in a letter to Reynolds that the independent investigation must include a look into the agency’s finances.
“The fallout from the firing of David Jamison should be a wakeup call to you and other state leaders,” reads the letter. “There is a reckoning in our country on the issue of workplace harassment. You have a choice: Do something serious to address this problem in your Administration or be on the wrong side of history.”
Associated Press writer Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City contributed to this report.