Iowa State Senate Republicans finish investigating whether they’ve engaged in sexual harassment

Illustration of Kirsten Anderson (l) and Sen. Bill Dix. — illustration by Blair Gauntt.

Republicans in the Iowa State Senate have finished an internal investigation into whether their caucus created a hostile work environment, complete with sexual harassment and racist slurs, the Associated Press reported on Sunday. But the results of that investigation will not be made public.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, announced the investigation in July, after a jury awarded $2.2 million to Kirsten Anderson, the former communications director for the caucus. Anderson was fired in May 2013, just hours after she filed a complaint about the Republican caucus fostering a toxic workplace environment filled with sexual harassment and racist comments. The jury found the Iowa Senate Republican caucus violated laws against workplace sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

Last month, the State Appeals Board settled the lawsuit, paying $1.75 million to Anderson. When the settlement was announced, board member and State Auditor Mary Mosiman defended using taxpayer money to settle the case against Senate Republicans. “There is no other source of funds for this,” said Mosiman, who is a Republican.

Although that settlement was paid with public funds, the investigation and the report resulting from it, are being treated as confidential personnel matters, Dix’s senior aide Ed Failor told the AP.

“Everybody in personnel has an expectation of privacy,” Failor said.

Gov. Kim Reynolds expressed a different view in a written statement provided to the AP. “The public deserves to know the whole truth about what happened to Kirsten. If there are any additional facts about her case that have not already been made public, they should be released immediately,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds also said she was “encouraged by the steps the legislature is taking to ensure a safe work environment by hiring a human resources professional.”

Following the settlement in the Anderson case, Senate and House Republican leaders decided to hire a director of human resources for the legislature, even though Dix said in August that the Senate would rely on the Iowa Department of Administrative Services for human resource services. The hiring process is still ongoing.

Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, and House Minority Leader Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, said in joint statment, “Republican leaders need to explain how this new position will make the Legislature a safe and welcoming environment for all employees, and how Iowa taxpayers will be better protected in the future.”

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