A $2.2 million judgement likely will cause some collateral damage.
Some think that should include Bill Dix’s job as the Republican leader in the Iowa Senate.
A Polk County jury this past week awarded $2.2 million to Kirsten Anderson, a former staff worker for Senate Republicans in the Iowa Legislature. The award was the result of Anderson’s lawsuit in which she alleged her 2013 dismissal was retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment.
The state — more specifically, Senate Republican staff — claimed Anderson was fired for poor work performance.
The jury ruled in favor of Anderson, and the $2.2 million award will be forked out by Iowa taxpayers at a time when the state budget is already seriously pinched.
When a lawsuit results in seven-figure monetary damages, often the impact is felt beyond the checkbook.
Already two public calls have been made for Dix to resign, including one from a Republican senator.
Sen. Rick Bertrand, a Republican from Sioux City, issued a statement Wednesday in which he called for Dix to resign.
“Sen. Dix has a pattern of retaliation, we all know that, and unfortunately power has that effect on some people," Bertrand wrote. "This jury did not believe that Ms. Anderson was justly fired, and ultimately her dismissal was Bill Dix’s decision, and that lack of judgement has consequences."
Dix recently removed Bertrand as a chairman of the Senate’s transportation budget committee.
Des Moines Register columnist Kathie Obradovich reached the same conclusion: Dix should resign.
“By failing to provide a professional work environment and even minimally competent management, Senate Republicans failed in their duty to protect taxpayers. Now every Iowan has to pay the penalty with their tax dollars,” Obradovich wrote this week. “Every one of the people with responsibility in this case, from Dix on down, should resign.”
Dix did not respond to Bertrand’s call for his resignation, according to a Senate Republican spokesman.
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But Dix did defend himself and his staff in response to the jury’s decision. He maintained the defense that Anderson was fired “only for her poor work product and absolutely no other reason.”
“During my leadership of the Senate Republican Caucus, harassment and inappropriate behavior was addressed immediately and effectively and it will continue to be addressed in that manner in the future,” Dix said in a statement. “The Senate Republican Caucus is now a safe environment and there is no tolerance for any and all types of harassment.”
Anderson testified that she first began complaining of sexual harassment in 2010, according to the Des Moines Register, and she was fired in 2013.
Dix was voted Senate Republicans’ leader in 2012.
The jury's ruling and calls for his resignation come at an otherwise heady time for Dix. In the 2016 elections he helped Senate Republicans gain the majority — and, as a result, control of the legislative agenda — in the Iowa Senate. Then, in 2017, he led Senate Republicans as they joined with House Republicans and Gov. Terry Branstad to pass myriad pieces of conservative legislation long sought by GOP lawmakers and voters.
LIKE A GOOD NEIGHBOR
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this week endorsed Kim Reynolds in Iowa’s 2018 gubernatorial election.
Reynolds will be the successor incumbent in the race — she ascended from lieutenant governor after former Gov. Terry Branstad resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China. But Reynolds faces a Republican primary challenge from Cedar Rapids mayor Ron Corbett.
GOP leaders have been lining up behind Reynolds — earlier this month Iowa’s Republican U.S. senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, announced their support for Reynolds.
“Gov. Reynolds is a strong leader whose bold vision promises a bright future for the people of Iowa,” Walker said in a statement issued by the Reynolds campaign. “She works tirelessly for Iowa’s hard-working families, and I’m proud to endorse her and the commonsense reforms she’s advancing in her state.”
Walker’s support means more than just a press release: it likely means the Wisconsin governor and conservative hero to many nationally will be willing to do what he can — i.e. raise money — for Reynolds’ campaign.
Of course, Walker has his own re-election campaign to run in 2018. He does not, at this point, have a serious primary challenger.