Witness in lawsuit calls Linn County Attorney’s Office ‘hostile’ work environment

Witness in lawsuit calls Linn County Attorney’s Office ‘hostile’ work environment
Published: Nov. 19, 2023 at 12:20 AM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A former Assistant Linn County Attorney said she left her job at the Linn County Attorney’s Office because of what she called a “hostile” work environment.

Rena Schulte shared her story after a different former county employee filed a sexual misconduct lawsuit against Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks and First Assistant Attorney Monica Slaughter.

That lawsuit claims Slaughter exposed herself, inappropriately touched, made sexual comments and assaulted the employee. It says the employee reported their concerns to Maybanks and Human Resources, but was still forced to work under Slaughter. The employee was later placed on administrative leave and fired.

“The public deserves to know that the people who they trust to safeguard victims of sexual abuse cannot be trusted,” said Schulte.

Schulte said she wanted to be a criminal prosecutor since the fifth grade because she wanted to protect people, but she said that was undermined by the culture inside the Linn County Attorney’s Office.

“The office that I devoted my life to and that I believed in, wholeheartedly, turned into a very hostile work environment where the victims were not believed. And women were not respected,” said Schulte.

Schulte counted herself among one of those women. She described an encounter with Slaughter in 2021.

“Monica attacked me,” said Schulte. “She came up to the table and aggressively started coming at me and yelling at me. She used very vulgar language. She called me a f***ing b****...I was afraid for my physical safety.”

Schulte said she reported the behavior to Maybanks the following day.

“Not only did he fail to discipline her in any way at that time, but he promoted her to First Assistant.”

The assistant who filed the lawsuit makes similar claims that Slaughter harassed and humiliated her, something Schulte said she witnessed personally.

“I witnessed Monica Slaughter touching her on her breast area, in the hallway right out side of my office.”

Schulte added, “She told me about Monica exposing herself to her, which didn’t surprise me because Monica frequently talked about her breasts in the office.”

The lawsuit claims Maybanks and County administration tried to downplay the behavior and claimed fault on both sides. Linn County denies those claims, releasing a statement that said officials “took appropriate action based on the internal review” but declined to comment further.

Schulte questions the effectiveness of that investigation.

“That investigation was not an investigation. I was a criminal prosecutor for 15 years. I know what an investigation is,” said Schulte.

Linn County must file a response to the lawsuit, one it says will vigorously defend itself and deny all wrongdoing.

After this story ran, Maybanks shared a second comment:

“For 23 years, I’ve dedicated my career to serving this community with honor and professionalism. The people who know me and have worked with me know my commitment to this job, the public and crime victims. I’ve fought for countless domestic abuse, child and sexual abuse victims. I’ve won awards for my service to victims. My record of service speaks for itself. I will not stand to have my reputation and the reputation of my office for serving victims maligned. I stand behind my service to victims and I stand behind the talented and dedicated prosecutors in our office. Our culture for protecting victims of crime is unwavering and it is strong. I have no further comment on this lawsuit or Ms. Schulte’s comments other than to firmly dispute her claims about our office culture. This matter will be resolved in court, as it should be.”

This article has been updated to include a statement from Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks, responding to the claims made by Shulte.