Their comments came tonight, a few hours after Republican Governor Kim Reynolds publicly released the letter she received in March from a state employee who alleged the Iowa Finance Authority’s boss was harassing women in the agency. Reynolds fired the man a month ago. Fred Hubbell, a retired businessman from Des Moines, said if there’s a lawsuit over a state official or state employee’s conduct, that person — not the taxpayers — should pay any damages.
“There is no room for sexual assault or sexual harassment in our state, period,” Hubbell said. “Not just state government, but in our state, in our communities, on our sidewalks. We’ve got to stop that.”
Hubbell and the five other gubernatorial candidates were in Adel tonight for Dallas County Democrats’ fundraiser. Nate Boulton, a state senator from Des Moines, said the female employee’s letter revealed a “toxic culture” where a state official abused his power in the work environment.
“The statehouse, state government, should lead by example and not be — unfortunately — a bad example,” Boulton said.
Andy McGuire, a medical doctor who is a former Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman, said harassment is a cultural issue that must be addressed.
“I want to make sure when I’m in office that we value every state employee, that we value everyone in Iowa,” she said, “so that we make sure we don’t have this anymore.”
Cathy Glasson, a nurse and union organizer from Coralville, said Reynolds “could have led” on the issue after a state senate employee who complained of harassment won a $2.2 million jury verdict last July.
“She sort of deferred it to that chamber, to the senate, like it’s just their problem, when obviously there’s a much bigger problem affecting the work environment in state government in Iowa,” Glasson said.
Ross Wilburn, a former Iowa City mayor and current employee of Iowa State University Extension, said Reynolds needs to ensure state workers know where they can safely go to air these kind of complaints.
“The governor does set the tone for the values and expectations on behavior,” Wilburn said.
John Norris, who served as Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack’s chief of staff, called the allegations in the woman’s letter “reprehensible.”
“Now you know why they tried to bury it,” Norris said.
Reynolds indicated in a statement this afternoon that it was up to the woman who wrote the letter to decide whether the graphic details of the alleged misconduct should be publicly revealed.
During a WHO TV interview, Reynolds said she felt she had the right to keep the document confidential, to protect the identity of the woman in a small state agency who filed the complaint. Reynolds also referred to Iowa Finance Director Dave Jamison’s alleged actions as “pathetic” and the governor told the TV station Jamison was “absolutely done” once she read the woman’s letter.
Reynolds has often said while she can’t dictate morality, her administration has a “zero tolerance” policy towards sexual harassment that seeks to change the culture in state government.