State officials have agreed to a settlement with the former host of Iowa PBS’ “Market to Market” as part of a wage and sexual discrimination case.
Delaney Howell, who hosted the agriculture business show for two years, alleged in a lawsuit in August that she received a lower wage than her male predecessor. She also said the network’s managers restricted her outside work in a way that they hadn’t for the previous “Market to Market” host, Mike Pearson.
The State Appeal Board approved the settlement Monday, paying Howell $55,000 and allocating another $34,000 to the Sherinian & Hasso Law Firm that represented her. Howell and her attorney, Emily Wilson, declined to comment.
According to the lawsuit, Howell joined Iowa PBS as an intern in 2015, doing behind-the-scenes production work for programs including “Market to Market.”
Network managers promoted her to host the show in February 2018, paying her about $20 an hour. They raised her salary to about $28 an hour eight months later. That was less than Iowa PBS paid Pearson, who earned $30 an hour when he started and was making $32 an hour when he departed the show.
While Howell argued that Pearson was just as green as she was when he started off as the host, Iowa PBS argued in court filings that Pearson had experience “through his father (Mark Pearson), who worked as the host of Market to Market for approximately 20 years.” Mike Pearson joined the show in July 2012, a month after his father’s death.
In the lawsuit, Iowa PBS also argued that Pearson had outside experience in the field in his roles as mortgage lender and agricultural relationship manager at Lincoln Savings Bank. He also had previously presented farm market updates on WOI radio.
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The “Market to Market” hosting gig is not a full-time position. Between preparation and shooting on Fridays, Pearson, in an interview Monday with the Des Moines Register, said the job generally requires 10-20 hours of work a week — depending on how much newsworthy activity is happening in the agriculture market.
PBS told Howell to resign from her Iowa Farm Bureau podcast
Five months into Howell’s role as host, in July 2018, she applied for a leadership program sponsored by the Iowa Corn Growers Association. She received permission from producer David Miller to participate, her suit says.
But Miller, Iowa PBS Executive Director Molly Phillips and other network managers told Howell about a month later that they did not like the “optics” of her connection to the corn trade group, according to the lawsuit. In answer to the lawsuit, an attorney for Iowa PBS wrote that the network’s managers changed their stance because they learned that the leadership program was training Howell to become a lobbyist.
Howell resigned from the program. About 1 1/2 years later, in February 2020, she entered into a contract with the Iowa Farm Bureau to make a podcast. Soon after, Miller called Howell to tell her he didn’t like the “optics” of her relationship with that organization, either, the lawsuit said.
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According to the network’s attorney, Miller only realized that Howell was hosting a podcast for the Iowa Farm Bureau when he heard her appear on the organization’s “The Spokesman Speaks” podcast.
Miller, Phillips and other network officials then told Howell that she either needed to resign or would be fired, according to the lawsuit. Iowa PBS’ attorneys wrote in a court filing that the officials made the decision after Howell told them that she was not ending her relationship with the Iowa Farm Bureau.
Unlike Howell, Pearson was not fired or threatened with termination even though he joined the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Board of Directors while hosting “Market to Market.” Iowa PBS’ attorney wrote that the network’s officials didn’t know Pearson was on the board until Howell pointed it out to them in 2018, after she had become host.
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An Internet archive of the association’s website shows Pearson joined the board in early 2017. Pearson told the Register he isn’t sure whether his bosses knew about his role on the board.
“I don’t think I would have made a big deal of it,” he said. “I probably would have mentioned it. But I couldn’t tell you whether they knew that for sure or not.”
Pearson left “Market to Market” in December 2017 after multiple drunk driving arrests.
Since Howell’s departure from Iowa PBS, she has become the chief marketing officer for Trader PHD, an agriculture news and analysis firm. She also hosts the Ag News Daily Podcast.
During Monday’s State Appeal Board meeting, when officials decided to approve the $89,000 settlement, Iowa Solicitor General Jeff Thompson said, “The supervisor that was most closely associated with the decisions here is no longer with the agency.”
It’s not clear which supervisor Thompson was referencing. Iowa PBS spokesperson Susan Ramsey declined to comment.