The Ottumwa Courier

August 22, 2013

APNewsBreak: Iowa academy leader got final warning

Associated Press

---- — IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The assistant director of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy received a stern warning instead of a suspension for making numerous comments in the workplace that were sexually inappropriate and, in one case, threatening, according to a disciplinary letter obtained by The Associated Press.

Michael Quinn, 70, violated the state's anti-discrimination and violence-free workplace policies with remarks to cadets and employees about his testicles and his sex life, and by telling one subordinate he would "slit your throat" if she acted up, the letter says. But in lieu of suspending him without pay for five days, ILEA Director Arlen Ciechanowski issued a "written notice of alternative discipline" that he said carried the same weight but would not affect Quinn's pay, seniority or benefits in the $91,000 per-year job.

Ciechanowski told Quinn it was imperative that he understand his failure to follow state policies was a serious matter, noting that he is in leadership at the academy and holds "a critical role model position for future Iowa law enforcement officials."

"Because of your unique position, this suspension should serve as a final warning," Ciechanowski wrote in the September 2012 letter. "Another incident involving a statement that constitutes harassment of a sexual nature, and does not have a legitimate teaching purpose, or a statement that threatens or intimidates another employee, regardless of the intent or the perception of the statement, will result in discharge."

Disciplinary files are generally considered confidential under Iowa law. But an attorney for Nancy Brady, an academy instructor who had complained about Quinn's behavior, received Quinn's letter from the Department of Administrative Services during a grievance over Brady's firing. The attorney, Gary Dickey, sent the letter to Brady, who shared it with AP this week.

Brady contends she was terminated in January after being unfairly accused of threatening Ciechanowski, appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad as director in 2011. She argues her firing and an earlier suspension amounted to retaliation for her complaint against Quinn and was unequal treatment when compared with the warning that Quinn received for his misconduct.

The academy, based at Camp Dodge in Johnston, trains law enforcement officers, jailers and dispatchers. It offers a 14-week basic training course and others throughout the year.

As the AP reported last week, the investigation was prompted by complaints from female academy students who said Quinn singled them out to ask whether "penis size mattered" in a sex abuse investigation class. Brady filed a complaint with DAS, which conducted an investigation.

The investigation confirmed Quinn made those remarks, which Ciechanowski's letter said were "counterproductive to an effective learning environment" because they embarrassed and offended students. There were better ways to make a point about interviewing assault victims, he told Quinn.

The investigation also confirmed that Quinn told Brady in August 2012 that he would "slit your throat" if she did not stay away from another employee at the academy's front desk. The statement, which Brady has on tape, "doesn't foster an environment of respect and professionalism," Ciechanowski wrote.

The investigation also found Quinn made at least two statements to colleagues and students about his testicles after he had received a vasectomy, including that, "I got my nuts cut and have them on ice," and "I got my package on ice."

"These comments were unprofessional and clearly don't belong in today's work environment," Ciechanowski wrote.

Quinn also made comments about his sex life when he introduced himself to students that were "unnecessary, inappropriate, and counterproductive." Ciechanowski's letter didn't elaborate. But Brady has alleged that the comments referred to Quinn discussing his relationship with Trisha Conrad, 36, a former academy employee who is now his wife.

Quinn declined comment. Ciechanowski said he followed DAS recommendation in opting to warn Quinn rather than give an unpaid suspension.

Ciechanowski had praised Quinn in an interview last week, calling him a talented administrator with great budgeting skills and valuable experience as the former police chief in Newton. Quinn began working at the academy as an instructor in 2000, and Ciechanowski made him his assistant director in 2011.

After learning of Quinn's remarks in February, the Crime Victim Assistance Division in the Iowa Attorney General's Office removed Quinn from his position as coordinator of the academy's Violence Against Women Act grant. The division also cut the academy's grant funding by $22,000 and made other changes to prevent and respond to any future inappropriate classroom behavior.

Dickey, the attorney, had represented Brady in a disciplinary grievance in which they argued she was being treated unfairly in comparison to Quinn. Brady was suspended for three days last fall after sending an email to Ciechanowski berating him for his lack of action toward Quinn, a communication that Ciechanowski called threatening.

"She gets a suspension. But this guy is making direct and inappropriate remarks by any objective measure, and he doesn't get anything nearly proportional," Dickey said.

DAS rejected Brady's grievance over the suspension, and she withdrew her appeal and a separate grievance over her termination, he said.

DAS spokesman Caleb Hunter said the agency conducted thorough investigations into Quinn and Brady, and Ciechanowski followed its disciplinary recommendations in both cases.