Davenport City Administrator Corri Spiegel has told city employees and elected officials to avoid contact with former Davenport Fire Chief Lynn Washburn while the city remains in litigation with Washburn over her job status.
On Tuesday, Spiegel and City Attorney Tom Warner sent a memo to all city employees and elected officials. It reads:
“It has come to the legal department’s attention that Lynn Washburn has been communicating and trying to meet members of our organization. As a reminder, the city is currently in active litigation with Washburn. Elected officials should avoid contact with Washburn until matters are resolved. City staff is directed not to communicate or meet with Washburn unless it is related to a routine resident-type transaction.”
In an interview, Spiegel said she wants those in contact with Washburn to be careful what they say, so as to not wind up in a deposition. Washburn’s tenure as fire chief ended July 27 when she was dismissed by the city. She appealed to the Civil Service Commission, which ruled 3-1 on November 8 that she may return to the department in a position commensurate with her civil service status.
The city of Davenport filed a notice of appeal Nov. 28 in Scott County District Court. A trial scheduling conference is scheduled for Friday in Scott County District Court.
Spiegel maintains the city is not telling people they can’t interact with Washburn, but to use caution in what they say when doing so.
“As a large employer, it is important that we protect both the organization and our employees against direct contact with those who are in litigation with the city,” Spiegel said, in the interview. “Despite everyone’s best intentions, the reality is that employees are put in uncomfortable and inappropriate situations when those with active litigation begin to seek information, even if those attempts are perceived as being innocuous. This reminder was sent to employees simply because the city’s legal department became aware of Washburn’s recent attempts to meet with staff and elected officials."
“The city has requested what is typically common courtesy in that if Washburn has need to meet with city employees or elected officials that she do so through her attorney through the city’s legal department,” Spiegel said. “These types of measures are common practice in the private sector. The only difference with us as a government is that, of course, city employees may speak with Washburn on their personal time and devices about any personal topic of their choosing.”
The employee directive, she said, is related to business hours and the use of city equipment and tools.
Alderman Marion Meginnis, 3rd Ward, said Spiegel was not directing elected officials on what they should or should not do.
“She’s giving advice, and it is good advice,” Meginnis said. “Whenever a company is in litigation it’s just wise not to talk. I read it as she is saying it is best not to do this.”
'It's not a matter of telling people they can't talk," Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch said. "There are so many moving parts in this, we want to make sure we're respectful of both parties and everything can be adjudicated properly and fairly. And if we come in contact with anybody, they can talk to them one person to another. But we want to be careful about random comments that could confuse a very challenging and complicated situation."