Woman says Iowa patrol captain didn’t act in harassment case
IOWA CITY — A powerful Iowa State Patrol captain failed to act after learning one of his troopers harassed a female state employee, telling the woman to confront the trooper herself, she alleges in emails obtained by The Associated Press.
Capt. Mark Logsdon’s response angered legislative security coordinator Shawna Ferguson, who reported last August that she was frightened by Trooper Wade Karp and wanted to be protected from him, emails show. Ferguson reported that Karp had sent her unwelcomed and alarming Facebook messages seeking to meet to begin a romantic relationship, and that she had been afraid of him since his service weapon fired in their office under murky circumstances in December 2016.
“Captain Logsdon not only did not offer me any assistance, he made excuses for Trooper Karp’s behavior,” Ferguson wrote in a March email to the patrol’s spokesman, which was released Friday under the open records law.
The case comes as a series of sexual harassment incidents have rocked Iowa’s state government in the last year, amid a national movement seeking to hold individuals and institutions accountable for stopping unwelcome behaviors.
Logsdon oversees the executive protection unit that provides security for Gov. Kim Reynolds and patrol Post 16, which handles Capitol security. A three-decade patrol veteran, Logsdon has been widely respected by politicians of both parties.
Logsdon told Ferguson, who was based at the Post 16 office but works for the Legislature, that she was a “strong person” who should confront Karp herself, she wrote. If she wasn’t comfortable doing so, “we can all three sit down together,” Ferguson recalled Logsdon saying.
Ferguson wrote that for the next two weeks nothing happened, and “at no time did Captain Logsdon follow up with me, or show any concern for my well-being.” She said her stress built as she sought to avoid Karp in the workplace. She ultimately reported Karp to the department’s Professional Standards Bureau, providing copies of the Facebook messages. Karp was placed on paid administrative leave the same day, Sept. 5, 2017.
It took the patrol until July 3 to fire Karp, which came days after AP sought an explanation for his 10-month leave in which he collected $50,000 in salary. The patrol released a termination letter Friday showing Karp was fired because of “intimidating, threatening and unwelcome” interactions with employees that violated the violence-free workplace policy and amounted to unbecoming conduct.
The department redacted additional passages and refused to release copies of the Facebook messages, claiming they are confidential personnel records. The patrol has also withheld records related to the December 2016 discharge of Karp’s service weapon. It’s unclear whether it was accidental.
Logsdon hasn’t returned messages seeking comment. Karp, a trooper for 10 years, has declined comment thus far.
Ferguson declined to comment Monday on the case.
Emails show she was frustrated by the slow investigation into Karp’s behavior, and that she also sought an investigation into Logsdon’s response. Iowa’s sexual harassment training for state employees, which was recently mandated by the governor, warns that managers who fail to act on complaints or knowledge of violations “shall be subject to disciplinary action up to and including discharge.”
Department of Administrative Services Director Janet Phipps promised Ferguson in an email that she had ordered a “full and complete investigation” into her concerns. But it’s unclear what the investigation found related to Logsdon, who earned $112,000 last year.
Apparently unaware of her complaints, patrol spokesman Sgt. Nathan Ludwig notified Ferguson in March that Logsdon was being featured in the agency’s monthly member spotlight on Facebook and asked if she could “type something up” highlighting his career.
Ferguson declined, calling the request offensive.
“Captain Logsdon is a mandatory reporter that failed to do his job,” she wrote. She added that honoring him under those circumstances would send “a very strong message to me that this behavior is condoned and celebrated.”
The patrol featured another trooper instead.