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Iowa governor defends secrecy surrounding firing of ally

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday defended the secrecy surrounding her firing of a longtime ally accused of sexual harassment, saying she doesn’t have to release more information while insisting the matter was handled appropriately.

The Republican governor repeated her claims that the allegations against Iowa Finance Authority director David Jamison were credible and that she terminated him swiftly as a result. She said she won’t specify the allegations to protect the confidentiality of the victims who reported misconduct, and that she doesn’t have to give any further reason for the termination because Jamison was an at-will employee.

Reynolds also defended her decision not to recuse herself from the matter despite her longstanding work and political ties to Jamison.

“I have a lot of friends and colleagues that I have worked with over the years. We said we had a zero-tolerance policy and that means that applies to everybody,” Reynolds told reporters.

The governor spoke after her office, responding to open records requests from The Associated Press, said it had no evidence showing why the allegations against Jamison were considered credible and created no records detailing why he was terminated on March 24.

Reynolds and Jamison have known each other for 20 years, dating back to when they were county treasurers and leaders of the Iowa State County Treasurers Association. Days before he was fired, Jamison tried to arrange a meeting with Reynolds to “catch up.” Records released Friday show the two had breakfast in February at a restaurant whose name the governor’s office redacted.

“I certainly feel for David. I know that if I was in his shoes I would want people to give me the benefit of the doubt without judging me unless they had some actual facts of wrongdoing,” said Wayne Clinton, who served on the Story County Board of Supervisors when Jamison was treasurer and said he had done an “outstanding job.”

Clinton said the governor must have felt there was reason to terminate Jamison and that “it might have been a prudent move on her part” given the national #MeToo movement.

In a letter Friday, governor’s office general counsel Colin Smith said that a Reynolds aide received verbal “reports of sexual harassment” during a meeting on March 23. Smith didn’t explain who made the reports or what they entailed. Jamison was terminated in-person the next day by Reynolds’ aides without an investigation. Reynolds announced in a press release that she had ordered the firing after receiving “credible” allegations, which she later said involved multiple employees.

Reynolds last year supported a law change requiring Iowa government agencies to release the “documented reasons and rationale” when union and other public workers are fired or demoted following misconduct investigations. But the governor’s office said that requirement doesn’t apply to Jamison because he was a political appointee who could be fired for any reason.

Reynolds’ response to Jamison’s firing contrasts with her support late last year for Iowa Senate Republicans to release details of a report on workplace culture in the chamber. The report followed the state’s agreement to pay $1.75 million to a former Senate GOP caucus aide who was fired after reporting harassment. Reynolds said last month the Jamison case is different because it involved multiple victims seeking privacy.

Jamison hasn’t responded to messages seeking comment, and his alleged victims haven’t spoken publicly.

Iowa Freedom of Information Council director Randy Evans has criticized the secrecy surrounding Jamison’s firing and called on Reynolds to release more information.

“The governor is kidding herself if she thinks the people of Iowa will let her stick with her staff’s ‘we can’t comment on that’ non-explanation about Jamison,” he recently wrote in a column.