IOWA CITY — After leaders of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation summoned an agent to Des Moines to be fired, they mistakenly allowed him to drive two hours home in a state car equipped with a shotgun, the agency acknowledged this week.
A spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, which includes the DCI, downplayed the severity of the incident but called it an error that would not be repeated. A workplace safety consultant called the situation a major blunder, saying it created serious safety and liability concerns and showed a lack of respect for the employee, special agent Andrew Harrelson, who has recently been ordered reinstated.
“That’s just stupid. You don’t ever terminate someone and give them access to a company vehicle, let alone one with a shotgun in it,” said Carol Fredrickson, whose Phoenix-based consulting firm advises companies on how to safely fire employees. “There’s a huge liability for them. Had he shot himself, had he shot somebody else, they would have been liable.”
DCI officials ordered Harrelson, a gaming enforcement officer based in Council Bluffs, in the far western part of the state, to a meeting at their Des Moines headquarters on Feb. 6. They were planning to terminate his employment after Harrelson was accused of rubbing powder on the buttocks of a male state trooper during a hazing attack at the basic training academy in 2008. Harrelson has adamantly denied the allegation.
As a first-level special agent, Harrelson was not assigned his own car. To attend the meeting, he checked out a vehicle from a state pool for the two-hour, 125-mile trip along Interstate 80, said Sgt. Scott Bright, the department spokesman.