Any hope that Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix is either prepared or willing to resolve ongoing sexual harassment issues at the Statehouse ended Tuesday.
Dix, a Shell Rock Republican, sat down with reporters and did not directly answer questions relating to a wrongful termination lawsuit that has cost taxpayers more than $1.7 million, his own communications with the Senate Republican Caucus, findings from an ill-conceived internal investigation, reasons why a determination to hire a human resources director was nixed, or the single employment termination that came weeks after a court determined allegations of sexual harassment were true.
Within a span of minutes, Dix once again repeated his court-dismissed claim that the firing of Caucus Communications Director Kirsten Anderson mere hours after she filed a formal sexual harassment complaint was due to poor work performance, and then told reporters that he believed all testimony of sexual harassment given during the course of the trial.
Dix had no answer as to why a key perpetrator of sexual harassment, identified at trial, was allowed to remain on staff for weeks following the court verdict. He shrugged off questions about why a law he helped pass this year that requires public disclosure of documents related to the resignation, demotion or firing of public employees wasn’t put into practice. He declined to reveal if any other staff members had been demoted as a result of bad behavior.
Dix immediately reassured reporters that no new incidents of sexual harassment had occurred, only to later admit he had no direct knowledge of the interviews he ordered conducted. Transcripts, he said, were underway, and he had not listened to recordings.
Dix could not provide a reason why, during the internal investigation he ordered, staff members should trust there would be no retaliation for reporting ongoing harassment in the workplace.
And now, after spending weeks not communicating with his caucus, announcing and then reconsidering the hiring of a human resources director, and making unilateral decisions regarding how the state should protect the health and safety of its workforce, Dix has decided more taxpayer money must be spent to hire a professional consultant.
Enough. Taxpayers no longer have a reason to trust that Dix can resolve ongoing sexual harassment issues at the Statehouse, or that he will ever be held accountable for his own role in the Anderson fiasco.
Gov. Kim Reynolds or House Republican Leader Linda Upmeyer must step up and do what the Senate Republican Caucus has not. They must call for Dix to step aside, and provide necessary leadership including an independent investigation that, once complete, is fully disclosed to taxpayers.
Finally, there must be someone in charge who is capable of demanding accountability, no matter who an independent review reveals as complicit or a perpetrator.
Reynolds and Upmeyer must step up before any more taxpayer funding is wasted and, more important, before any more staff members or teenage pages are made targets of sexual harassment.
This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on Nov. 15, 2017. Photo credit: Stephen Mally/The Gazette