Statehouse GOP Hiring H.R. Director To Hear Sexual Harassment Complaints

Dec 15, 2017

Statehouse Republicans are interviewing candidates, hoping to have a new human resources professional on hand before the legislature reconvenes next month.  

The new position is being created after a former GOP Senate staffer won a $1.75 million settlement alleging a sexually-charged work environment.

This person would be a nonpartisan person. -Chief Clerk of the House Carmine Boal

After some false starts, the Republican-controlled House and Senate are working together to make the hire.   The new director will hear sexual harassment complaints and advise legislative leaders and other statehouse supervisors on workplace issues.

The new position will report to the Chief Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate, who are both political appointees.

“Being the chief administrative officers in the House and the Senate it makes sense that we would be the people to oversee the human resource department,” said Chief Clerk of the House Carmine Boal. “This person would be a nonpartisan person.”

The Department of Administrative Services provides human resource support across the executive branch of state government, but the legislative branch up to now has been on its own.  

A private sector expert on workplace sexual harassment calls the hire a “step in the right direction.”

This is a step in the right direction. -Consultant Kevin Pokorny

“This is pretty generic as far as what an H.R. Director would be doing,” said Des Moines consultant Kevin Pokorny.   “That’s been needed there.”

Pokorny said the position will be unlike a similar position in the corporate world, where a vice-president or CEO is accountable to a board, while legislative leaders are “not accountable to anybody".

“They set the tone of the culture,” Pokorny said. 

A spokesman for Senate Republicans declined to comment on the new hire.  

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Janet Peterson (D-Des Moines), said her party was not involved in creating the new position or interviewing the candidates.   

“Senate Democrats are focused on policy reforms and other changes that will actually ensure that the Iowa Senate becomes a safer and healthier workplace,” Peterson said.