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2nd official leaving Iowa agency after report on harassment

An Iowa real estate regulator said Tuesday she will step down weeks after an investigation.
tara lawrence

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa real estate regulator said Tuesday she will step down weeks after an investigation ordered by Gov. Kim Reynolds faulted her for failing to report sexual misconduct by her powerful boss.

Iowa Title Guaranty Director Tara Lawrence will resign Nov. 2 after six years with the program, including serving as director since 2015, the Iowa Finance Authority announced.

The authority said in a press release that Lawrence “has played a critical role in the development and success of the organization,” which sells title insurance to property owners and lenders. The statement thanked Lawrence for her service and wished her well in future endeavors.

It made no mention of a report released last month that faulted Lawrence and agency lobbyist Wes Peterson for failing to report “egregious” sexual harassment that they witnessed by former authority director Dave Jamison.

Lawrence is the 2nd official leaving this agency, and the third position to be vacated after the report, which was ordered by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Lawrence had taken issue with the report in meetings with state officials, saying it unfairly painted her as an enabler of Jamison when she was actually another one of his victims. In an interview Tuesday, she said the decided to resign after learning that Reynolds’ administration will not make any changes to the report or public statements exonerating her.

“It’s hard to work for an organization that treats its staff that way,” she said. “Because of the report and the conditions that have come about at work after the report, it’s impossible to continue working there.”

Lawrence said she was saddened to leave and that she was unsure whether she would pursue legal action against the state.

The report said Jamison grabbed a colleague’s breasts at a bar in December 2016 in front of them during a work trip to northwest Iowa and they kept the incident quiet. A witness told investigators that Lawrence was drinking so heavily that night that she had trouble walking.

Lawrence and Peterson were also aware of other inappropriate sexual comments and actions by Jamison, including that he showed a pornographic video on his phone to the groping victim during another trip, the report said. The two remained a part of Jamison’s inner circle, traveling and socializing with him at bars.

Peterson’s lawyer has said that his client was fired last month over the report’s findings, which he said contained unspecified inaccuracies. Lawrence, 34, said in an interview last month that the report gave an unfair portrayal of her role as well but that she was expecting to keep her job, which paid $122,000 last year and is responsible for managing 20 employees.

Read: Iowa leader’s ‘sidekick’ was fired over contact with victim

Iowa Finance Authority interim director Carolann Jensen appointed Lawrence’s deputy, Matt Rousseau, to serve as the program’s interim director.

Reynolds ordered the independent investigation by the Weinhardt Law Firm in Des Moines amid questions about her handling of allegations against Jamison, who had been a close friend and colleague for 20 years. She terminated Jamison in March the day after two women contacted her staff to complain about his long-running sexual harassment.

The report found that employees may have not come forward sooner because Jamison bragged about his close relationship with Reynolds, which included giving input on her major speeches and frequently promising to go directly to Reynolds to get priorities accomplished.

Lawrence had said that she didn’t report Jamison’s misconduct because she feared retaliation if she complained and that she had been sexually harassed by him, too. She told The Associated Press that Jamison showed her photographs of nude women, commented on her body and quizzed her about her sex life during meetings and work trips.

Lawrence said she didn’t cooperate with the investigation because she didn’t want to detail her harassment and wanted to protect her family and the agency from embarrassment. She said she was ashamed she drank too much on the night of the 2016 groping incident.

Independent investigator Mark Weinhardt said he told Lawrence when they met for a voluntary interview that she could share details of any harassment confidentially, but that he also wanted to ask her about Jamison’s behavior toward the two complainants. Weinhardt said Lawrence declined to speak about any topic, saying she “anticipated litigation.”