New comments from Iowa Senate GOP leader on sexual harassment claims

Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix told WHO-TV last night that former Senate GOP communications director Kirsten Anderson was fired solely because of her job performance, and that it’s a coincidence her employment was terminated the same day she submitted documentation of alleged sexual harassment at the statehouse.

Over the weekend, Dix’s top staffer Ed Failor, Jr. had strongly denied Anderson’s assertions about a hostile work environment at the capitol. After Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds both suggested the Iowa Senate should investigate the harassment claims, Dix spoke to WHO-TV himself about the controversy.

Dix said his staff told Anderson early in the legislative session that she needed to improve her performance as the senate Republican caucuses communications director. Some of Anderson’s duties included writing news releases and legislative updates for constituents. Dix said, “We’ve worked with her over the last couple months. Her performance on the job hasn’t met the standards of my expectations.”

And because Anderson’s performance hadn’t improved, Dix said, “She had been notified her job could be in jeopardy. It should have not come as a surprise to her that her employment was terminated.”

Dix said he doesn’t tolerate harassment in the office. He said, “From my perspective, we’ve been offering a calm and professional climate for her to work in.”

He added that he wasn’t aware of Anderson making any previous complaints about inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Dix responded, “No. Not to my knowledge. Not with me or my staff.”

When asked why Dix decided to fire Anderson the same day she presented her document to him alleging her complaints, he responded, “The two are unrelated.”

I don’t know what transpired between Anderson and Republican legislators and Senate staff over the past five years. For what it’s worth, several people who have either worked or spent considerable time at the statehouse have independently contacted me since Sunday to say that they find Anderson’s description of the work environment credible.

It’s possible that Senate GOP leaders had real concerns about Anderson’s work. The Iowa Senate Republicans website isn’t as informative or up to date as the corresponding site for Iowa Senate Democrats. I find it hard to believe it’s a coincidence that she was fired on the same day she raised the sexual harassment complaints, though. The session is almost over. Why not end her employment quietly after lawmakers go home?

Speaking to WHO-TV’s Dave Price on Sunday, Anderson declined to name any specific Republican lawmakers or staffers who allegedly have made inappropriate comments to women. Price’s latest report on this story quotes Anderson as saying she will identify them “soon.” Presumably she will need to be specific in the claim her attorney plans to file with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

P.S. – As of Tuesday afternoon, the Iowa Senate Republican website had taken Anderson’s name off the staff list and removed the “related headlines” box from its front page (see screen shot below).

On Sunday and Monday, links to news reports about the sexual harassment allegations kept appearing in that box. The “latest news” section of the front page still links to statements from April 9 and April 15.

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  • Hardly a coincidence

    So Dix admits she did, in fact, turn in documentation of sexual harassment on the exact day she was fired. It really stretches the imagination that those two are unrelated. In fact it implies that he ignored the documentation she provided, which right there hardly constitutes a safe working environment.

    Is it also coincidence that the first “complaints” about her work happened soon after she first brought harassment to the attention of her supervisors? Is it also coincidence that the “complaints” about her work seem so petty? Is it also coincidence that her work performance declined so severely so soon after she was promoted from Research Analyst I to Research Analyst II?

    That’s just way too much coincidence for me.

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