Mar 26, 2021 - News

Polk County supervisor: HR director's firing politically motivated

Supervisor Matt McCoy

Matt McCoy during a hearing earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Polk County Board of Supervisors

Polk County’s HR director was fired for his handling of an alleged sexual harassment claim against supervisor Matt McCoy, as first reported this week by CityView.

  • McCoy told Axios Thursday that the accusation against him is false and former HR director Jim Nahas’s termination is politically motivated.

Why it matters: The situation raises serious questions about whether a toxic, hostile work environment exists in the highest ranks of our county government.

Details: A female Polk County employee said she heard McCoy describe her in physically threatening, vulgar and sexually demoralizing terms during an October meeting that Nahas attended, according to the Jan. 5 termination letter obtained by Axios.

  • Nahas was evasive or dishonest on many occasions during an investigation into the incident, according to the letter written by county administrator John Norris.
  • Nahas initially dismissed McCoy's comments that allegedly included a crude reference to the woman's anatomy by saying "that is how all the supervisors speak," according to the letter.
  • Angela Connolly, the board’s chairperson, told Jason she is unable to comment beyond stating the conclusion of Nahas's termination letter: That harassment complaint protocols were not followed.

What's next: A lawsuit will "soon" be filed on behalf of Nahas "to clear his good name," attorney Nick Mauro told Jason.

  • The investigation into McCoy was completed but its conclusions were not provided to us Thursday.

What they’re saying: The people in the meeting have denied hearing the comment and the woman who filed the complaint allegedly heard it from outside the room, McCoy told Jason.

"For me, these accusations are a personal embarrassment. They would love to see me defeated in the next election cycle and this is just to batter me up. That’s what I think this is really about."
Matt McCoy in a an interview Thursday with Axios

The other side: McCoy's accuser referred comment to her attorney, who said he was still conferring with his client and might offer a response later.

Between the lines: Other allegations have surfaced that suggest a hostile work environment.

  • McCoy alleged Thursday that another supervisor used a homophobic slur to reference him during a separate incident.
  • That supervisor did not return Jason's request for comment.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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