Investigation Validates Sexual Harassment Claims Against Former Iowa Finance Director

by | September 21, 2018 AT 10:20 AM

By Erin Jordan

A five-month investigation by a Des Moines law firm found former Iowa Finance Authority Director David Jamison did sexually harass women on his staff, in one case grabbing his subordinate's breasts and in another case watching a pornographic video on his phone while he and the woman were alone in a car for a work-related trip.

The Weinhardt Law Firm based the 35-page report released Thursday on interviews with 29 current and former IFA employees, witnesses not employed by the state and "high-level decision-makers" in state government, including Gov. Kim Reynolds, the report states.

The firm also interviewed Jamison, who led the agency from 2011 until he was fired in March after a female employee complained to Reynolds about harassment. Following Jamison's ouster, Reynolds asked Weinhardt to do a full inquiry.

"We have concluded based on our investigation that Mr. Jamison indeed engaged (sic) in sexually harassing conduct," the report states. "Mr. Jamison categorically denies any wrongdoing. His position is that the events described by Witness 1 and Witness 2 are simply false. Based on the totality of our investigation, we do not find Mr. Jamison's denials to be credible."

Investigators found Jamison most often committed sexual acts or made sexual comments within a small group, which witnesses said he called his "Circle of Trust," with whom he frequently socialized and drank alcohol. Besides the two primary witnesses, the circle included Tara Lawrence, director of Iowa Title Guaranty, and Wes Peterson, director of government relations.

"None of Mr. Jamison's sexual harassment, however, was known in parts of state government outside of IFA," the report states. "Indeed, the most egregious acts by Mr. Jamison were only personally known by four people at IF A: Witness 1, Witness 2, Ms. Lawrence, and Mr. Peterson."

Witness 1 told investigators Jamison grabbed her breasts with both his hands while they were drinking with other IFA employees on a work-related trip in the Okoboji area in December 2016, the report states. Jamison did this in the context of a joke about a dollar bill, investigators said. In months following the incident, Jamison would reference the joke by saying "bet you a dollar" to the woman or just showing her a $1 bill, the report states.

Two other people who were on the Okoboji trip recounted the incident similarly, the report states.

Jamison told investigators he remembers bringing up the joke, but said before he could execute it, Jamison's attorney asked him to leave the room for a minute. "I never touched her. I know other people started to allege that I did, but I did not touch her," Jamison told investigators.

Witness 2 described a work-related road trip in which she was driving and Jamison was in the passenger seat. He asked her about her favorite sex positions and whether she's had sex in public places, the report states. Also during this trip, Jamison used his cell phone to watch a pornographic video about how to perform oral sex on a woman, the report states.

"He showed her the images of the video while Witness 2 was driving and Mr. Jamison said to her 'Can you tell when I'm excited?' while looking down at his crotch."

Jamison recalled to investigators driving alone with the woman on a return trip from Omaha, but denied any inappropriate behavior, the report states.

Investigators found the women targeted by Jamison saw their pay increase dramatically during their time at IFA, perhaps contributing to their fear of "adverse employment consequences" if they reported his behavior, the report states.

"Witness 1's salary was approximately $50,000 when she began working at IFA," the report states. "When Mr. Jamison hired her, however, he promised her that he would increase her salary after six months. By the time she left IFA in 2018, her salary had increased approximately 60 percent."

In addition to acts described by Witness 1 and 2, other witnesses said Jamison made sexual jokes or comments with double entendres.

Brian Crozier, the agency's chief of staff, told investigators he was offended when Jamison commented about another employee having "jungle fever" for being attracted to black women.

"Mr. Crozier found this particularly insulting and inappropriate because his wife is African-American. Mr. Crozier described these kinds of sexual remarks and speculation as common for Mr. Jamison," the report states.

Witnesses told Weinhardt that Jamison frequently mentioned his friendship with Reynolds. Both served as county treasurers at the same time. Some witnesses said Jamison's behavior worsened after Reynolds became governor in May 2017 when former Gov. Terry Branstad was named U.S. ambassador to China.

Reynolds released this statement Thursday afternoon:

"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. 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."

She continued: "Among many troubling issues raised by this investigation, I am frustrated that Mr. Jamison created the impression that he wouldn't face consequences because of my friendship with him. That could not be further from the truth."

Weinhardt says in the report Iowa's sexual harassment policies should be clearer about how a complaint against a director should be handled.

"We will immediately take up this issue and make that change," Reynolds said in the statement.

(c)2018 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)