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Iowa Senate harassment deal comes with an apology

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From left, State solicitor general Jeffrey Thompson of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, David Roederer, director of the state Department of Management, State Auditor Mary Mosiman and State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald on Monday discuss a proposed $1.75 million settlement agreement involving a former state employee who alleged sexual harassment and discrimination against her former supervisors in the Iowa Senate Republican caucus.

DES MOINES — The State Appeal Board Monday unanimously approved a $1.75 million settlement with a woman who won a $2.2 million jury award in July for claims she was sexually harassed while working for Iowa Senate Republicans.

The settlement came with an apology from State Auditor Mary Mosiman.

“This should not happen,” said Mosiman, a Republican who chairs the appeal board.

Its members agreed 3-0 to pay the settlement to Kirsten Anderson and her attorney.

In July, a jury awarded Anderson $2.2 million after she asserted she had been fired in 2013 only hours after she complained of a “toxic” work environment in the Capitol. The state was appealing the verdict.

Mosiman, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald and David Roederer, director of the Iowa Department of Management, voted to end the dispute with Anderson, former Iowa Senate GOP communications director.

The settlement will pay $1,044,776 to Anderson and $705,224 for legal fees.

Anderson — who worked in the Senate for five years — told jurors she was fired in 2013 about seven hours after she complained to her boss about lewd behavior she experienced there. Her assertions were backed up by others who also testified.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, originally contended Anderson was fired for poor work performance. But he later said things he learned from the trial prompted him to launch an internal investigation and contract with the Iowa Department of Administrative Services to provide human resources services to the Senate. The Senate Republican Caucus employee at the center of the lawsuit resigned.

Fitzgerald, a Democrat, said he was “outraged and appalled” by the “toxic” work environment described during the trial, and he expressed concern more lawsuits could be forthcoming. 

He said he voted to approve the settlement to avoid further state losses.

“I’m appalled that Sen. Dix is not taking responsibility....” the treasurer added. “I think the governor should ask for Sen. Dix to step down.”

Dix declined to comment Monday.

In August, GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds backed Republican Senate leaders but called sexual harassment in the workplace “unacceptable.” 

On Monday, she reiterated that stance, but added, “let’s stop taking incidents like this and making it a political issue. This is ridiculous.”

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Statehouse reporter for The Courier

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