The city of Davenport will make its case Wednesday against the reinstatement of former Fire Chief Lynn Washburn to the fire department.
Washburn was fired July 27, three days after she was placed on administrative leave for not attending a pre-disciplinary meeting. Washburn had informed City Administrator Corri Spiegel she would not be able to attend.
Washburn filed an appeal with the Davenport Civil Service Commission in August. On Nov. 8, the commission ruled in a 3-1 vote that she was entitled to return to a position commensurate with her civil service status prior to her appointment as fire chief under Iowa Code 400.13.
The city filed an appeal Nov. 28 in Scott County District Court.
Richard Davidson, an attorney for the city, argued in a brief filed in May that the Civil Service Commission lacks jurisdiction to order Washburn’s reinstatement because she is not a civil service employee.
He wrote that Washburn was never employed anywhere in Iowa under Chapter 400 and had previously retired from the Rockford (Illinois) Fire Department as a district chief.
“It is undisputed that Washburn was never employed in any position as provided in Iowa Code Chapter 400 because prior to her employment in Davenport, Washburn had never been employed as a firefighter and she never took a civil service examination,” Davidson wrote in the brief. “It is undisputed that Washburn never obtained civil service status in Iowa prior to being appointed as fire chief. However, Washburn argues that her civil service rights she obtained while employed in Illinois somehow transfer to Iowa.”
He further argued that even if she could transfer her civil service rights from Illinois, she had no civil service rights there because she had volunteered at the Rockford Fire Department the same time she was hired as Davenport Fire Chief.
In a brief filed June 28, Washburn’s attorney, Mike Carroll, wrote that public policy supports the commission’s position that Washburn could be placed in a position commensurate with her Rockford civil service status.
The clear public policy of Chapter 400 of the Iowa Code, he argued, is to allow and promote recruitment of the best people for these civil service jobs, not to foster only internal promotion.
“Pursuant to the City’s arguments, lateral hires would be given no right to remain employed upon their termination, and no credit for substantial years of service, such as Washburn possessed in this case, if their service was completed outside the department,” Carroll wrote in the brief. “Such as result would chill the efforts of any City to recruit externally and is contrary to the public safety expressed by Chapter 400, which favors broader recruitment.”
Carroll also argued that the city offered “too narrow” a definition of civil service status.