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State Government News

Kramer on Iowa Senate Harassment: “I Don’t Know If I Can Say It Won’t Happen Again”

Kay Henderson
Ambassador Mary Kramer

The former state senator who has agreed to advise the Iowa Senate on sexual harassment issues says it was a problem during her tenure, and she wishes she had set up a policy to address it back then.

Ambassador Mary Kramer who had a long career as a human resource manager in the private sector served in the Senate from 1990 to 2003, including two terms as president.  

In a taping for Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, Kramer said while she was Senate president, she handled sexual harassment complaints.

It was not good when I was there. -Ambassador Mary Kramer

“It was not good when I was there,” Kramer said. “It was important that people felt there was someplace to take their issues.”

But Kramer says she is “cross with herself” that she did not institute a human resources process at the time.

"I don’t know why it didn't occur to me," Kramer said.

As an outside consultant, Kramer is now devising a sexual harassment policy for the Iowa legislature.   The need became clear after a former senate staffer won a $1.75 million sexual harassment settlement, alleging a toxic atmosphere in the Republican caucus.

There is no one person in charge.

Kramer will recommend that the Iowa House and Senate pass resolutions outlining goals for civility, respect and professionalism at the capitol. The goals would cover elected officials, staff, lobbyists, and the media. A new policy would cover filing and investigating complaints.   

She will also recommend making founded complaints public. For elected officials, that would mean a referral to the House or Senate Ethics Committees.

The House and Senate are interviewing candidates for a new human resources director at the capitol.

Kramer said the statehouse is a complex environment, involving elected officials and staff in the House and Senate, the lobby and the media.

“There is no one person in charge,” she said.