DES MOINES, Iowa -- Simmering tension stemming from previous multi-million dollar sexual harassment settlements with state employees seeped into the State Appeal Board's meeting Monday, where members approved another multi-million settlement.
State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, a Democrat, had a series of tense exchanges during the meeting with Solicitor General Jeff Thompson, who negotiates settlements on behalf of the attorney general's office. The exchanges involved the board's decision last month to approve $4 million in settlements to two Iowan women who claimed Dave Jamison -- while he was their boss serving as the executive director of the Iowa Finance Authority -- repeatedly sexually harassed them on the job.
Jamison had been a longtime friend of Governor Kim Reynolds. Reynolds' predecessor, Terry Branstad, appointed Jamison to the position with the IFA in 2011, and Reynolds initially kept him in that position after she became governor.
Fitzgerald and Thompson went back and forth during the appeal board meeting regarding the discussions that led to the settlements with two of Jamison's alleged sexual harassment victims.
Fitzgerald: "Jeff, I was outraged that in this case, you were talking with the governor."
Thompson: "I have never spoken with the governor about this."
Fitzgerald: "I was informed that you spoke to the governor's lawyer, her personal lawyer..."
Thompson: "No, no...the general counsel for the office of the governor."
Fitzgerald said that Thompson should have negotiated settlements with the acting head of the IFA, rather than the governor's legal counsel. Thompson said he dealt with Reynolds' legal counsel because the IFA didn't have a permanent director (Reynolds fired Jamison from that position, a day after she said that an IFA employee gave her a letter detailing his alleged misconduct.)
Fitzgerald questioned whether those negotiations lessened his role on the appeal board. "I have had a hard time being a rubber stamp," Fitzgerald said, "If that's the way it's going to be....we should clarify..."
And then Thompson interjected, "Mike, with all due respect, you're a good friend but you're really misinformed."
The three-member board did unanimously approve a $2.35 million settlement for Kristine Sink, a former corrections guard. Last month the board approved a $1.65 million settlement to Sink for the sexual harassment she said that she endured on the job. The second settlement followed Sink's complaints that she got fired after complaining about the initial harassment.
In a statement defending how the IFA settlements were handled, Pat Garrett, spokesman for the governor's office said, "Our office agreed with the recommendations of the Attorney General’s Office that it was in the best interest of the state of Iowa, of taxpayers, and more importantly the victims to settle this case as soon as possible. There was a full investigation detailing what happened at the Iowa Finance Authority, and there’s no dispute that the victims were wronged, so any further delay to a settlement would cost taxpayers in attorney fees and potentially re-traumatize the victims."