Iowa Senate Republicans to release document on harassment
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Top Iowa Senate Republicans announced Tuesday they will release a document related to an internal investigation into alleged sexual harassment in their caucus, following pressure from within the party to make the findings public.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix said in a press release he will provide, by the end of the week, an “internal review document” related to the investigation. Additional details about what would be included in the document were not provided.
Dix and Senate GOP officials have been under scrutiny over their handling of an in-house investigation into alleged sexual harassment in the office. The allegations were raised by a former staffer for the caucus, Kirsten Anderson, who said she was fired in 2013 after reporting sexual harassment. A trial earlier this year led a jury to award Anderson $2.2 million. The state settled the case for $1.75 million.
Dix maintains Anderson was fired for poor work performance, but he’s recently said he believes her testimony about harassment in the office.
GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds and House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, also a Republican, had called on Dix and his office to release more information about the investigation. Dix had previously refused, claiming that doing so would raise privacy concerns for staff employees.
The shift over sharing some findings from the investigation came on the same day Dix and GOP Senate President Jack Whitver announced they will bring in a former Republican state lawmaker with experience in human resources to help advise them on “workplace culture” following the allegations.
The announcement that Mary Kramer will assist the Senate GOP office did not elaborate on the scope of her work and how it will be carried out.
Dix applauded Kramer’s previous work in human resources as part of his announcement. That experience includes serving as corporate personnel director for the Younkers department store chain and vice president of human resources for insurance company Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
Kramer was in the Iowa Senate from 1990 to 2003 and became Senate president in 1997. She later served as U.S. ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. Dix described Kramer’s new job as an appointment being filled in a “voluntary capacity.”
“She has graciously agreed to assist the Senate as we work to make important improvements to the employment culture,” he said in a statement.
Kramer said in a statement Dix invited her to take on the role, adding “as a result of my conversations with him, I am convinced he is sincerely committed to ensuring that employees of the Iowa Senate work in a safe and healthy environment.”
It’s unclear whether the office still plans to hire an outside counsel to assist the office or if Kramer’s involvement concludes that search. Dix told reporters earlier this month he would seek outside counsel to review the issue and it would involve a bidding process.
Caleb Hunter, a Senate GOP spokesman, declined to respond to multiple questions after the announcement. He later said via email: “We are going to let our release stand for today and we will have more information later this week.”
After the trial, Dix and his top staff said it would launch an investigation into the allegations made. Separately, a staffer accused of harassment during the trial resigned in September. Dix has refused to explain why the staffer resigned.
Earlier this month, the Senate GOP office confirmed its investigation was being conducted internally without outside assistance. They also confirmed it was completed but no additional information would be released to the public amid privacy concerns for office employees.
In his press release Tuesday, Dix also said his office would work with House leadership again to hire a joint human resources manager to oversee harassment complaints. That plan had been put on hold amid concerns raised by Dix’s staff about the position.
It’s unclear if Kramer’s work will impact Democrats in the chamber. Sen. Janet Petersen, a Des Moines Democrat and minority leader for her caucus, said she and others learned of the appointment through the media. She said in a statement “it is hard to assess whether this will make the Legislature a safe and welcoming environment for all employees, whether Iowa taxpayers will be protected in the future, and whether the Legislature will take steps necessary to protect the rights of those who raise concerns about harassment.”
Reynolds applauded Kramer’s involvement during a press conference shortly after the announcement. Brenna Smith, her press secretary, later declined to comment on Petersen’s criticism. Hunter with the Senate GOP office also declined to comment.