Records show Dubuque knew of more harassment complaints than they recorded

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) -- A lawsuit is raising questions about the accuracy of how well Dubuque tracks sexual harassment in city government.

Abigail Simon, who is suing the Dubuque Police Department and Chief for harassment and other claims (Courtesy Photo)

Last year, an I9 investigation found only one recorded incident of sexual harassment in Dubuque in the previous seven years. City officials told I9 last year the only instance of sexual harassment involved a former firefighter.

Last week, Dubuque police Captain Abigail Simon filed a lawsuit against the city and its police chief Mark Dalsing, claiming discrimination and sexual harassment. Simon's complaints were not included in the records the City gave I9 last year.

I9 followed up with Dubuque City Manager Michael Van Milligen Wednesday morning about why Simon's complaints where not noted in City sexual harassment records. Van Milligen says he believes, "we appropriately responded to your request" but refused to say more.

Emails I9 has obtained between Simon and city officials, including Van Milligen, show the city knew of at least one other complaint, which is not what Van Milligen told us a year ago when we asked if he believed there was only one case of sexual harassment in Dubuque over a seven year period.

"They are the facts," said Van Milligen.

Simon's attorney provided I9 with emails showing both Van Milligan, city attorney Crenna Brumwell, and City Personnel Manager Randy Peck, planned to meet in person, in December 2017, to discuss Simon's concerns. The email chain shows the three were included on correspondence Simon had also sent Assistant Police Chief Jeremy Jensen where she detailed alleged instances of offensive exchanges.

In one case, Simon describes a fellow officer talking about his plans to Google "boob jobs" after a female city employee went on medical leave. Another complaint involves the police chief allegedly using derogatory language to describe pink colored hats.

Mark Zaiger, a Cedar Rapids attorney who specializes in sexual harassment, says an email to a supervisor should count as an official sexual harassment complaint.

"In most organizations there is not much question about keeping track of them (complaints)," said Zaiger. "In other organizations I guess there can be but certainly you should have base information about each and every one."

In the emails, Simon also claims a fellow officer used racist language.

Van Milligen declined our requests for an interview about the discrepancy in city records. Van Milligen added the City does not comment on matters in litigation.