Lawyer for ex-Iowa official rips governor over abrupt firing

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A lawyer for former Iowa Finance Authority director Dave Jamison blasted Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday for publicly firing and labeling him a sexual harasser without investigating the allegations against him.

During an unemployment appeal hearing Tuesday, Jamison attorney Bruce Stoltze Jr. attacked Reynolds and other state officials for refusing to share the allegations with Jamison or give him the chance to rebut them before and after his March 24 termination. He complained that the state cherrypicked information to make Jamison look bad, withheld evidence that could have undermined its case and refused to make Reynolds available to testify at Tuesday’s hearing.

Jamison has been silent since Reynolds fired him March 24, a day after two female subordinates told Reynolds’ chief of staff that Jamison had long sexually harassed them. Stoltze’s comments were the first on Jamison’s behalf in a case that has spawned multiple investigations and become a headache for Reynolds, who had been a close friend and political ally of Jamison for 20 years dating back to when they were county treasurers.

Stoltze spoke during a 90-minute hearing on the state’s appeal of Jamison’s unemployment benefits, which were granted in April after the state departed from its normal practice and declined to participate in a fact-finding interview. State officials argue that Jamison should be disqualified from benefits and have to pay back thousands of dollars he’s already collected because he was fired for job-related misconduct.

Jamison, 60, declined to testify at the hearing. Stoltze argued on his behalf that the state failed to prove any misconduct occurred because Reynolds’ office never investigated the claims and offered no corroborating evidence to support them. He noted that Jamison is still uncertain of the accusers or their full allegations, and told Administrative Law Judge Nicole Merrill that denying him unemployment benefits under those circumstances “quite frankly, your honor, would be a travesty of justice.”

Testifying under oath, Reynolds chief of staff Jake Ketzner said he met with the accusers March 23 and both were shaking at times as they shared detailed allegations of Jamison’s behavior.

One of the women said that Jamison made sexually inappropriate remarks and put her in situations “that were completely inappropriate and embarrassing as well,” Ketzner said, declining to elaborate. The other outlined her allegations in a letter to the governor that accused Jamison of constantly talking about his sexual history and inquiring about hers, making inappropriate sexual and racist comments, commenting on employees’ bodies and pressuring her to go to his hotel room during work travel, among other claims.

Ketzner said that he believed the women were telling the truth and “therefore no further investigation was needed.” Reynolds terminated Jamison immediately instead of putting him on leave to investigate the claims, which her office called credible in a press release announcing his firing.

Stoltze told Ketzner that releasing such information without investigation unfairly created “a stigma” around his client that could harm his future employment prospects.

Ketzner said that Jamison was surprised when he learned that he was being terminated and asked for an opportunity to rebut the allegations. Ketzner said that he declined to give him that chance in order to protect the privacy of the women.

Ketzner testified that Reynolds and Jamison had been friends for decades, and that the governor had not been aware of any prior sexual misconduct allegations against him. Ketzner said that he was the “best person to testify” for the state, even though Reynolds made the termination decision, since he had spoken with the accusers.

Merrill said she would rule on the state’s appeal in coming days.