The city of Davenport will challenge the reinstatement of former Fire Chief Lynn Washburn in Scott County District Court.
Last month, the city's Civil Service Commission voted 3-1 to reinstate Washburn to the position of district chief after she filed an appeal, arguing she had the right to stay in the department pursuant to language in Iowa Code Chapter 400.
Assistant City Attorney Brian Heyer filed a petition Tuesday on behalf of the city in which he wrote, "The City of Davenport is appealing said decision in its entirety because it is contrary to Iowa statutory law and a prior decision of the Iowa Supreme Court."
Washburn was placed on administrative leave July 24 and fired three days later after she was unable to attend a pre-disciplinary meeting with City Administrator Corri Spiegel.
Pursuant to city policy, officials have declined to comment on personnel matters. Spiegel reminded the City Council of this at the time of Washburn's dismissal.
The only documentation that is public is a memorandum from Spiegel in Washburn's personnel file.
"During my tenure, due to actions on her part including, but not limited to, those of today and the past several days, she demonstrated that she is unsuitable or unfit for continued employment," Spiegel wrote.
While not challenging her dismissal as fire chief, Washburn and her attorney, Mike Carroll, appealed to the Civil Service Commission that she had the right to return to the department under Iowa Code 400.13 and 400.14.
Police and fire chiefs have the right to remain in their departments and return to positions commensurate with their civil service status, according to those codes.
The city's argument centered around a 1978 court case, Cedar Rapids v. LaPeters, in which a police chief was removed from his position and the department.
Heyer argued that the case established precedent that civil service rights were not transferable, and since Washburn came from the Rockford (Illinois) Fire Department, the rights she acquired there did not apply in Davenport.
The commissioners, however, thought the language in the Code was more broad.
"It's my feeling that the language in the second paragraph of section 400.13 doesn't say the chief that is relieved isn't entitled to remain in the department in a position commensurate with her status solely based upon her employment by the city of Davenport," Commissioner John Bribriesco said last month.
In his petition to the court, Heyer also argued that Washburn's "return to the fire department would greatly raise the potential for irreparable harm to the department if the stay is not granted."
Heyer wrote that because Washburn has been absent since her removal, it would not cause her injury.
While not surprised by the appeal, Carroll issued a statement on behalf of Washburn, expressing disappointment in the city's decision.
"Chief Washburn is disappointed that the City is appealing the decision of its own Civil Service Commission rather than obeying the Commission’s order returning her to work," Carroll said. "The Chief believes the law is clear, and she should be returned to the City in a District Chief position. Chief Washburn will resist the City’s efforts to ignore the Commission’s decision and will continue to fight for her job back."