The Republican leader in the Iowa Senate has released a written statement confirming he will not reveal why he dismissed an employee accused of sexual harassment. That secrecy does not apply to employees in the rest of state government.
In October, the state agreed to pay Kirsten Anderson, the former Senate Republican Caucus Staff communications director, $1 million and pay her $705,000 in legal fees. Anderson had sued, charging she was fired hours after complaining of sexual harassment on the job and jury ruled in her favor this July.
After the jury’s verdict, Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix and his top aides investigated Anderson’s complaints from back in 2013. Dix has just released a statement saying the results of that investigation “will not be made public” because “employees of the Senate have an expectation of privacy in these matters.” The Republican-led legislature passed a law earlier this year that imposes different rules for employees in the other branches of state government. That new law made the documents revealing why state workers are fired, demoted or resign to avoid termination public records.
The Associated Press reported this weekend that Dix’s investigation of Anderson’s allegations was complete and legislative leaders are hiring a new “director of human resources” to oversee employees in the legislative branch of state government. This new HR director will report to two officials who are political appointees in the House and Senate.
Iowa Freedom of Information Council executive director Randy Evans said his group believes Senate Republicans “are taking a shortsighted position” on the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.
“The taxpayers of Iowa are the ones who are left to pay the court judgment, but Senate leaders are depriving the taxpayers of a full understanding of what the investigation found,” Evans said.
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake issued a written statement last week when the AP reported the hiring of a new legislative branch employee to oversee sexual harassment complaints.
“House Republicans will not tolerate any form of harassment. Period,” Upmeyer said. “A Human Resources Director will improve our current practices and provide employees with a professional to handle any questions or complaints that they may have. We are committed to ensuring a work environment free of discrimination and harassment for all legislative employees.”
(This story was updated at 4:29 p.m. with additional information.)