The city of Davenport plans to continue to pursue an appeal of the reinstatement of former Fire Chief Lynn Washburn.
The Davenport City Council met in executive session Wednesday night to discuss the potential litigation. On Thursday, City Attorney Tom Warner confirmed the city will appeal the Civil Service Commission's order to reinstate Washburn to the department.
“Lynn Washburn’s employment status with the city of Davenport was that of an at-will employee from her start date through her termination," Warner said. "She was informed of her status in writing when she was hired.
"The Civil Service Commission’s decision that Lynn Washburn, despite her at-will status, is entitled to be placed in a lower ranking civil service position within the Davenport Fire Department has important implications beyond the immediate situation and will have an influence in the hiring of future chiefs," Warner said. "Accordingly, the city has filed and is pursuing an appeal.”
Washburn's employment was terminated 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.
Spiegel and the City Council have not commented on the reason for termination, citing the city's policy of not discussing personnel matters.
Spiegel wrote in a memorandum placed in Washburn's personnel file that "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."
Washburn successfully appealed to the Civil Service Commission that she had a right to be reinstated to a department based upon language in Iowa Code 400.13.
That section of the code says that chiefs are entitled to remain in departments commensurate with their civil service status. Because Washburn came to Davenport from the Rockford (Illinois) Fire Department, the city's position was that the civil service rights acquired there did not transfer here.
The city sent a notice of appeal to Washburn's attorney, Mike Carroll, on Nov. 22 and filed it in Scott County District Court on Nov. 28.
The notice of appeal surprised some members of the City Council, including 7th Ward Alderman Mike Matson, because council members had intended to make a decision on whether to pursue the appeal at the executive session. It prompted Matson to write an email to the council, Warner and Speigel.
"Who decided this?" Matson wrote in the email. "We are/we're to talk about this in executive session Wed? Who moved this ahead of our executive discussion?"
Mayor Frank Klipsch made the email public after a media request.
Because the commission's order was made Nov. 8, the city had 30 days, or until Friday, to determine whether to proceed with the appeal.