DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa Law Enforcement Academy instructor was fired months after filing a complaint about the assistant director's inappropriate sexual comments to female students in what she is calling a case of whistleblower retaliation.
Academy administrators deny that Nancy Brady's firing in January was a retaliatory move. But Brady, who had worked 14 years as an instructor for dispatchers, contends that she was fired after being unfairly accused of threatening the academy director, the culmination of punitive actions that started after she filed a complaint against assistant director Michael Quinn.
Brady, 57, has filed civil rights and discrimination complaints over her firing and is considering legal action. She said she shared details of her case publicly in the hopes of sparking changes at the academy and exposing a pattern of retaliation in state government against whistleblowers.
She complained in July 2012 to the Department of Administrative Services after female students told her they were upset that Quinn asked them during a sex abuse investigation class whether "penis size matters." An investigation resulted in Quinn facing unspecified disciplinary action. A second complaint filed by Brady led to a $22,000 grant funding cut and Quinn being removed as the academy's Violence Against Women Act training coordinator.
"Students came to me in good faith to report egregious actions by the assistant director and then I was fired," she wrote in an email to the Associated Press. "I lost my job and benefits and had my character defamed by Iowa state government."
But Quinn, 70, kept his $91,000 per-year job at the academy, which trains police officers, jailers and dispatchers and sets statewide hiring standards.
Brady contends the Department of Administrative Services mishandled the investigation by almost immediately compromising her confidentiality.
"I certainly hope, Bill, that this does not adversely affect me and my job in any way since I specifically told you it was confidential. I will not be lynched for doing the right thing," she wrote to department administrator Bill West in July 2012.
DAS spokesman Caleb Hunter said Friday the agency conducted a thorough and proper investigation and "there was no mistreatment of Ms. Brady."
Brady alleges that Quinn summoned her to his office weeks later for a surprise performance review, where he said he would "slit your throat" if she spoke with another employee about non-work matters. Brady provided the AP an audio recording in which a male voice — identified as Quinn by Brady — calmly makes the comment to Brady.
Quinn did not deny making the statement when asked by the AP. But he and Academy Director Arlen Ciechanowski said the statement had already been addressed by the DAS investigation, which is confidential.
Brady detailed her firing in a February complaint to the Attorney General's Office.
In the wake of her earlier complaint about Quinn, Brady said Ciechanowski announced that employees would undergo sexual harassment and workplace violence training. Brady said she was upset Quinn hadn't personally faced repercussions, and wrote an email to Ciechanowski about what she called his failure to address bad behavior. She said she was accused of insubordination and using a threatening tone, which she denied, and received a three-day suspension.
In December, Brady said an academy secretary came to her Urbandale house to discuss work. Brady, frustrated, told the woman she felt about Ciechanowski the way the secretary felt about her ex-husband: She has said things about harming him that she doesn't mean.
Days later, Ciechanowski put Brady on leave and barred her from the academy at Camp Dodge in Johnston, telling her she had threatened him, Brady said.
Brady said she was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation in which she was repeatedly asked whether she was homicidal or suicidal — assertions she called outrageous. She said she never intended to threaten Ciechanowski.
She said DAS officials held a disciplinary interview Jan. 8, where she tried to explain that the remark had been taken out of context. Two weeks later, she said was fired by Ciechanowski in the Capitol while two troopers stood guard.
Ciechanowski told the AP he could not discuss the reasons for Brady's firing, but "there was no retaliation." Quinn said that he had nothing to do with Brady losing her job.
Brady said after she was fired, she freely walked through the Capitol and spent the next hours talking with legislators.
"No one, even for one single second, ever believed that I was a threat of any kind to anyone," she wrote.