New records show taxpayers paid thousands for additional sex harassment investigation

MARION, Iowa (KCRG) -- New records uncovered by the I9 investigative team show there was an additional investigation into sexual harassment at the Marion Police Department. So far, Marion's city administrators have refused to acknowledge any issues within their police department or how it could be addressing them.

The Marion Police Department on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 (Josh Scheinblum/KCRG)

Earlier this year, the City of Marion hired an outside attorney, Fran Haas, who specializes in discrimination and harassment to investigate the police department.

Marion officials have said it received a report of sexual harassment this year sometime between January and April. The city told the I9 investigative team that was the only sexual harassment complaint in the department since at least 2016 but additional records, including an audio recording, shows there was another complaint and a second external investigation in 2017.

"It's based on comments that you made saying there's a sexual harassing overtone and environment at the police department," is how an outside investigator described her investigation into the Marion Police Department in 2017 over the phone. The alleged victim, then a Marion police officer, recorded the call and gave it to the I9 on the condition of anonymity.

The investigator on the phone the alleged victim tells I9 is Patti Seda with Seda Consulting.

I9 obtained billing statements showing the city paid Seda's firm at least $3,400 in 2017.

In the recording, the investigator says the city's human resources director and City Manager Lon Pluckhahn were aware of the complaints.

"He (Pluckhahn) said, 'I need to understand what's going on'," said the investigator.

In an email, the alleged victim says she complained about lewd behavior from other officers toward her. The behavior she alleges includes an incident where an officer held up a cucumber to his pants and told her to open up. The alleged victim also says officers, including command staff, frequently made comments about her chest. The alleged victim says she complained to police administration about the harassment but that they did nothing.

What Seda's investigation found is a mystery. The city has refused to give the victim details or a copy of the report that was compiled. In an email obtained by I9, Marion's Human Resources Administrator Jen Ketelsen also told the victim her complaint was regarding a medical leave of absence, not sexual harassment.

The disagreement over what type of complaint the alleged victim made could be why the city did not include the 2017 sexual harassment complaint in I9's open records request earlier this year. I9 reached out to Pluckhahn for clarification on Tuesday, and for a copy of the 2017 investigative report, but he has not answered our questions.