Iowa trooper fired in harassment case sues over termination
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa trooper who was fired after a lengthy sexual harassment and workplace safety investigation has filed a lawsuit alleging he was wrongly terminated and illegally blocked from seeking disability.
Former Iowa State Patrol officer Wade Karp, who worked at the Capitol complex in Des Moines for a decade, alleges that superiors improperly told him he could not apply for disability before they fired him in July 2018.
Karp’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Polk County, says that he became aware of his potential disability on that day, after receiving the results of a medical evaluation that he’d been ordered to undergo during a 10-month paid leave .
The lawsuit doesn’t identify the disability, but he has said previously that it made him unfit for duty as a trooper. The board that oversees the retirement system for state police officers later denied Karp’s request for a disability retirement, saying he didn’t meet the legal requirements.
Karp was put on leave and under investigation in 2017 after a Capitol employee reported receiving unsettling Facebook messages from Karp. In them, Karp sought to begin a romantic relationship, warned that her relationship with another man was “heading in a harmful direction” and said he would “ask for the LORD God to help clear your heart” when she rebuffed him.
The woman and others were concerned, in part, because Karp had previously discharged a rifle in the workplace. A termination letter accused Karp of “intimidating, threatening and unwelcome” interactions with colleagues.
But Karp’s lawsuit alleges his termination was without “just cause” and inconsistent with the state’s progressive discipline policy. His attorney has said the Facebook messages weren’t intended to harass and that he stopped them at the woman’s direction.
The lawsuit also alleges that the lengthy inquiry into Karp’s alleged misconduct was defective and included unspecified “illegal and improper actions” by investigators. It seeks damages for lost wages and emotional distress.
A state patrol spokesman, Sgt. Alex Dinkla, declined comment.
The case was a test of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ strict policies forbidding sexual harassment in the workplace and punishing offenders and supervisors who fail to report it.
The employee who reported Karp’s messages has alleged that a patrol captain who oversaw Capitol security took no action on her complaint, and that she was advised he would be protected due to his political connections. A state investigation cleared the captain of wrongdoing.