I9: Anamosa police chief sent racist, sexual emails to colleagues and city officials

Published: Feb. 19, 2018 at 5:54 PM CST
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Former Anamosa police officer Amy Ford sued the city and its police chief Bob Simonson in 2015 pointing to a culture of sexual harassment. The parties settled in January, giving Ford $750,000.

"Anything woman related, it was only sexual to him," said Ford.

Ford says even though she has settled her lawsuit her fight for justice isn’t over.

"The city council and city have chosen not to do anything regarding it," said Ford. "I don’t know how he still has a job."

Chief Simonson was never suspended over Ford’s allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination and still remains on the job, an issue that came up at last week's city council meeting. City attorney Adrian Knuth said there he was surprised Anamosa’s insurer settled with Ford for so much.

"It was a conducive environment for the plaintiff’s claim," said Knuth.

His explanation, and lack of action from the council, is why Ford tells I9 she made the decision to speak out on camera.

"I was so angry because I thought, you don’t get it, there has been no accountability," said Ford.

I9 reached out to the chief of police for an interview, he declined but did refer us to the city attorney. I9 asked Knuth why we were interviewing him and not the chief.

"I think it was just a decision that it was better that the city’s voice come from my office," said Knuth.

Ford gave I9 more than a dozen offensive emails and texts Chief Simonson sent in 2015 and 2016. Most are forwarded sexually explicit and racist images and jokes, some which we were not able to show on TV. In one is a joke about bras not showing enough of women's breasts.

In another email, he forwards a joke making fun of Asian accents and likens a sexual position to a Chinese food menu.

The emails were sent to other Anamosa police officers and at least one city council member, Cody Shaffer. Knuth said he was "not aware" that some on the council had received the messages at the time of our interview.

In some of the messages, time stamped after Ford filed her lawsuit, Simonson appears to mocks the claims made against him. In one there is a picture of Christmas lights spelling the "C-word" and the text "Sheeesh, and her attorney is accusing me of saying it once!"

The city attorney doesn't dispute the allegations but says that's not the reason for the high settlement.

"There was a favorable social, political climate for a gender discrimination claim, that’s my observation," said Knuth.

I9 also brought to Knuth's attention some of the emails sent by the chief were racist in nature but he said in response, "I’ve not seen any emails that were racist in tone or flavor."

In deposition in 2016, Chief Simonson admitted calling African-Americans, gangbangers and big lipped mother expletives.

Chief Simonson remained on the job at the filing of this report. The city attorney says the city council is addressing what happened but would not specify what that is. I9 reached out to every member of the city council and the mayor via email and over the phone concerning this story but no one has responded. As for Ford, she is now serving as a police officer in another eastern Iowa department where she says her experience is going quite well.