An unemployment benefits appeal hearing Tuesday revealed more details about Gov. Kim Reynolds’ firing of Iowa Finance Authority Director Dave Jamison over sexual harassment allegations, including the admission Jamison was fired without an investigation and was not given a chance to respond to claims.
Jamison received unemployment benefits after his firing, and the governor’s office is appealing those benefits.
Jake Ketzner, the governor’s outgoing chief of staff, was the only witness to testify at the appeal hearing.
He said he received a call from an IFA employee on March 23 who asked for a meeting with the governor. Ketzner said Reynolds was not available, but he “could sense that something was up,” and asked if the employee would like to meet with him as soon as possible.
Ketzner said he met with her and a second IFA employee at a Panera Bread in West Des Moines later that evening. He said both employees described “very specific allegations” of sexual harassment by Jamison, who was their boss. A letter from one of the employees, of which a redacted version was later released, details several incidents of inappropriate touching and obscene comments and gestures by Jamison.
Ketzner said he contacted Reynolds after the meeting and told her about the allegations. He said the governor called a meeting around 9 o'clock the next morning with Ketzner, chief legal adviser Ryan Koopmans, Department of Management Director Dave Roederer, and Department of Administrative Services Director Janet Phipps.
Ketzner said that Phipps presented the governor with three options, one of which was to suspend Jamison to allow for an investigation.
“Upon hearing the complaints and allegations and reading the letter, the governor ordered the immediate termination of Director Jamison,” Ketzner said. He said his recommendation to the governor was immediate termination.
He said he met with Jamison around 3:00 p.m. Saturday, March 24, and “advised him of the allegations of sexual harassment and that he had been terminated, effective immediately.”
Ketzner confirmed to the judge that Jamison was not given a chance to rebut the claims. He also said he refused to give Jamison any details about the allegations because of “privacy and confidentiality concerns by both employees.”
Bruce Stoltze Jr., a lawyer for Jamison, asked why the governor’s office did not investigate the allegations before the firing.
“I met with the two IFA employees who made the complaints on Friday, March 23, and believed them, and therefore no further investigation was needed to determine if Mr. Jamison should be terminated,” Ketzner replied.
Throughout the hearing, Stoltze Jr. asked Ketzner to reveal the names of the accusers. Administrative Law Judge Nicole Merrill said that information is not relevant to her decision. She also denied a request by Stoltze Jr. to compel the governor to appear at the hearing.
An outside employment lawyer working for the governor’s office asked the judge to deny unemployment benefits to Jamison.
Stoltze Jr. asked the judge to deny that appeal, saying the governor’s office didn’t meet the burden of proof in showing Jamison committed misconduct that would disqualify him from receiving benefits. He also noted the governor’s office didn’t participate in a previous fact-finding interview, which is the first round in determining whether a person receives unemployment benefits.
Judge Merrill said she would issue a decision within 10 days. Both parties then have 15 days to file a second-level appeal with the state’s Employment Appeal Board.
Last week, Ketzner said in a statement he’s departing the governor’s office June 8 “to pursue opportunities outside state government.” Koopmans will replace him as chief of staff.
There are several ongoing investigations into the Iowa Finance Authority and Jamison’s tenure at the agency, but they were initiated several weeks after Jamison was fired and cannot be used as evidence in the unemployment benefits proceedings.