Academy leader faced prior allegation
IOWA CITY – An Iowa police academy leader punished earlier this year for making sexually inappropriate remarks left his previous job after being accused of touching and bullying a female subordinate, records obtained by The Associated Press show.
Michael Quinn, assistant director of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, resigned as Webster City’s assistant city manager in 1999 after an employee complained that he once touched her buttocks, routinely made her feel inferior and slammed doors during an outburst.
The woman claimed Quinn entered her office where she was standing and grabbed her shoulders, according to a memo written by city clerk Pat Nokes.
“(Quinn) took his hand and ‘swiped’ it across her buttocks and then said, ‘this is what I got into trouble for before. Do you think it’s that bad?'” the memo said.
A year after he resigned from the 8,000-resident city in northern Iowa, the training academy for police officers, dispatchers and jailers hired Quinn for a gender-sensitive position: an instructor on domestic violence. Quinn, now 70, said there was no reason to disclose the allegations in the application process, and the man who hired Quinn praised his “excellent credentials.”
Earlier this year, Quinn was barred from teaching Violence Against Women classes after Iowa’s Crime Victim Assistance Division, which approves funding for the courses, learned about an investigation last year that found he repeatedly made inappropriate workplace comments.
Quinn asked female recruits taking a sex abuse investigation class whether “penis size matters,” talked about his sex life and told colleagues that his “package is on ice” after he underwent a vasectomy. He also warned instructor Nancy Brady, who had filed a complaint about his remarks, that he would “slit your throat” if she spent too much time talking at the academy’s front desk. Brady was fired in January and is considering legal action, claiming retaliation.
Academy director Arlen Ciechanowski, a Gov. Terry Branstad appointee who promoted Quinn to assistant director of the academy in 2011, warned Quinn that any additional inappropriate remarks would cost him the $91,000 per-year job. Ciechanowski has praised Quinn, who was Newton’s police chief before being hired for the Webster City position in 1997, as a talented administrator with valuable experience. He said Thursday he wouldn’t comment on “unfounded or unsubstantiated issues.”
The Webster City employee, Sandy Twedt, said she didn’t initially complain about Quinn’s touching her “because of fear,” but came forward months later because her mistreatment continued, according to the memo from Nokes. Quinn was “very indignant and belittling” during one dispute and then got mad and slammed her office door after she told him she deserved more respect, the memo said.
“Sandy feels very strongly that she does not want Mike around her while she finishes out her work with the city,” Nokes wrote.
Quinn wouldn’t answer questions from the AP concerning the allegations. He said in a statement that it was only a memo and there “was no formal complaint, no investigation, no discipline.”
“There was nothing to disclose when I applied for my position here,” he wrote.
Then-city manager Teresa Rotschafer said city officials asked Quinn to resign and he agreed. Records show he negotiated a severance package that paid four months of salary in exchange for promising not to sue the city.
“I just remember it was unpleasant, uncomfortable,” said Rotschafer, now finance director in Johnston, a Des Moines suburb. She said news reports about Quinn’s behavior at the academy, also in Johnston at Camp Dodge, “brought back some unpleasant memories.”
Quinn denied being asked to resign from the Webster City job, claiming he left so he could be with his then-wife while she completed graduate school. But memos obtained by the AP – including one from Quinn – show there was pressure for him to quit.
Quinn wrote to Rotschafer on March 2, 1999, that he believed it would be “very difficult” to continue in his position after Twedt’s allegations were discussed. He said he was “embarrassed and also angry” about the city’s handling of the situation, saying it was inappropriate the allegations were discussed in front of the city attorney and a councilor.
“Clearly my effectiveness will be/is undermined and no doubt numerous employees either know or will soon know about the contents of the memo written by Pat Nokes,” Quinn wrote. “Minimally, they will all know Miss Twedt complained about my supervision and got me removed as her supervisor. Therefore in the future, anyone could and no doubt would question my authority should a supervisory issue present itself.”
He added, “it is only a matter of time before others outside this City know.”
But the allegations never reached the law enforcement academy. Gene Shepard, who was director when Quinn was hired in 2000, defended his decision to bring him into the position, saying he “presented excellent credentials.”
Asked whether he checked into Quinn’s departure from Webster City, he sidestepped the question.
“You’re dealing with personnel files that are over 13 years old,” Shepard told the AP. “I decline to try to speculate.”