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DES MOINES — Republicans who run the Iowa Legislature say Kate Murphy of Ankeny will begin work Jan. 22 as director of human resources in the wake of a $1.75 million lawsuit settlement last year that involved claims of sexual harassment in the Senate’s GOP caucus.

Murphy, a senior professional in human resources and a certified public manager, has worked as an administrator in the state Department of Transportation since 2006 and has been involved in human resources in the public and private sectors. Charles Smithson, secretary of the Iowa Senate, said Murphy will be paid $86,000 annually in her new joint House-Senate position.

Senate President Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said Murphy will help legislative branch officials take “a fresh look” at updating policies related to sexual harassment and serve as a resource if someone is experiencing problems in the Statehouse.

Colin Tadlock, a spokesman for House Republicans, said leaders in both GOP-led chambers were involved in hiring Murphy, who will report to Smithson and House Chief Clerk Carmine Boal. He noted the legislative branch has between 400 and 500 employees during the session and most businesses with a workforce of that size have a human resources person.

Murphy will work with supervisors on things like writing job descriptions, employee evaluations and terminations but not necessarily as a sexual harassment investigator. The new position was created after state officials agreed last fall to pay $1.75 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a former GOP Senate staffer who was fired after complaining about a toxic work environment and reporting sexual misconduct.

Whitver said he believed the addition of a human resources director “will definitely help, but I think the governor also said it very well in her speech that this isn’t something you can just legislate. We have to be more mindful of those situations going forward,” he said.

House Democratic Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown said he, too, was glad Gov. Kim Reynolds spoke about sexual harassment in her Condition of the State address Tuesday but added, “let’s keep in mind that Republicans in the Senate already have cost Iowans $1.75 million because of their behavior.”

Reynolds used her speech Tuesday to call for an end to the “destructive force” of sexual harassment.

“As a woman, a mother of three girls, a grandmother, wife, sister, and daughter, I understand we’re at an unprecedented moment in time,” the governor said, but noted that sexual harassment is not a partisan issues that can be stopped by legislation.

“You cannot legislate kindness or respect or morality,” Reynolds said. “The solution starts with every individual, man or woman” including elected officials who should serve as role models.

“What we do here matters. Iowans are watching. We can’t change behavior everywhere, but we have an obligation to lead and, as long as I am governor, we’re going to,” she added.

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Statehouse reporter for The Courier

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