Emails obtained by The Associated Press suggest the state of Iowa might have accelerated an unprecedented $4.15 million settlement with two sexual harassment victims because of an attorney’s threat that might have threatened the candidacy of Gov. Kim Reynolds.

In an Oct. 1, 2018, letter, Attorney Paige Fielder demanded the state pay $2.6 million to settle with her client, Beth Ann Mahaffey, who left her job at the Iowa Finance Authority after complaining about Iowa Finance Authority Director Dave Jamison.

Fielder told Solicitor General Jeff Thompson that the offer was good until Nov. 4 — two days before the election at which voters would decide a closely contested race between Reynolds and Democrat Fred Hubbell.

Fielder warned in the letter that, lacking a settlement, she would conduct “extensive discovery” into Reynolds’ friendship with Jamison dating back to the years they were both county officials in the 1990s.

The Associated Press reported that Reynolds called Jamison a family friend whom she as a heavy-drinking partier with an odd sense of humor but denied knowledge of his misconduct.

“Frankly, it is hard to imagine that Gov. Reynolds did not know what kind of a man Dave Jamison was,” Fielder wrote.

Reynolds fired Jamison in March of 2018 after Mahaffey and a second woman, Ashley Jared, complained to the governor’s office.

According to the emails obtained by The AP, Fielder emailed Thompson Nov. 1 stating that she planned to file Mahaffey’s lawsuit the next day because she had not heard from him about the settlement demand.

Thompson responded, “Just got authority this morning. Filing tomorrow could complicate matters since all discussions on my end have included concept that pre-litigation resolution was beneficial.”

The two negotiated a $2.35 million settlement on Nov. 23. The state reached a similar agreement with Jared for $1.8 million.

An investigation into the women’s complaints against Jamison found that Jared and Mahaffey received unusually large salary increases from Jamison that were initially denied by the Department of Administrative Services but approved after the governor’s office interceded with the DAS.

Within weeks of winning the election, Reynolds’ administration backed the combined $4.15 million payout. The payouts, which will be paid from a fund used to support affordable housing developments, were formally approved by a state board last month.

State Auditor Rob Sand has criticized the settlement, saying taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for Jamison’s misconduct.

Of the raises the two women received, Sand — referring to Jamison — told The Nonpareil, “He used taxpayer money to buy their silence. That’s disgusting.”

It’s not only disgusting, it bears further investigation.

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