Governor Kim Reynolds expressed confidence Wednesday that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in the Iowa Senate, where Republicans face a multimillion-dollar court judgment in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
A district court awarded former Republican Senate staffer Kirsten Anderson $2.2 million after a trial featuring testimony describing a sexually toxic workplace.
Senate Republicans have retained all leaders and staff while they conduct their own investigation of the court testimony.
At her weekly news conference, Reynolds praised Majority Leader Bill Dix for his zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment.
"The Senate is conducting an investigation into the full scope of what came out of the trial," Reynolds said. "I appreciate the steps that they are taking, and I have faith in Senator Dix."
The investigation will be conducted internally by Secretary of the Senate Charles Smithson.
In a new release issued Wednesday afternoon, Senator Dix said Senate Republicans will contract with the Iowa Department of Administrative Services for human resource services.
“I look forward to working with DAS to ensure a safe working environment exists for all employees,” Dix said.
Dix said he contacted DAS on the advice of the attorney general.
Reynolds said an outside investigation by the department would be appropriate.
“It’s not a bad idea to have an outside individual review the situation,” Reynolds said. “"Whenever we would have an incident, we have an outside person come in and actually do the investigation, ask the questions and report back.”
Meanwhile, some critics say Republicans, not the state, should pay the court judgment in the Anderson case.
But Reynolds said the state will follow past practice and honor the judgment even though it’s a tight budget year.
"If it's an obligation, then it's an obligation, so we have to do what we have to do to make sure that we meet that," Reynolds said. "This is unique, but this would come out of the general fund."
"After helping to create a projected $350 million budget shortfall, Gov. Reynolds is forcing taxpayers to pay for a $2.2 million sexual harassment lawsuit," countered Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy McGuire in an email. "That's just wrong."
Attorneys for Anderson have filed a motion asking for outside supervision of Senate Republicans.
NOTE: Story was updated 4:19 p.m. to include information from a news release from Senator Bill Dix.