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Bradshaw v. Cedar Rapids Airport Commission

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 13, 2017

TIMOTHY T. BRADSHAW, Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Appellee,
v.
CEDAR RAPIDS AIRPORT COMMISSION, Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Kevin McKeever, Judge.

         Employee appeals and employer cross-appeals from summary judgment ruling in breach of contract action. AFFIRMED ON APPEAL; REVERSED IN PART AND REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS ON CROSS APPEAL.

          Matt J. Reilly of Eells & Tronvold Law Offices, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

          Benjamin P. Roach of Nyemaster Goode, P.C., Des Moines, for appellee.

          Considered by Mullins, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.

          MCDONALD, JUDGE.

         Timothy Bradshaw sued his former employer, the Cedar Rapids Airport Commission, for breach of contract. Bradshaw contended the Commission owed him severance pay pursuant to an employment agreement. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court held Bradshaw was not entitled to severance pay but was entitled to compensation for an additional month of service. Bradshaw appeals, contending the district court erred in holding

         Bradshaw was not entitled to contractual severance pay. The Commission cross-appeals, contending the district court erred in holding Bradshaw was entitled to additional compensation.

         I.

         Bradshaw served as the Airport Director for the Eastern Iowa Airport. The airport is owned by the City of Cedar Rapids and operated by the Cedar Rapids Airport Commission. In 2012, Bradshaw and the Commission entered into an amended employment agreement.

         Several provisions of the agreement are relevant to this appeal. Paragraph 1 of the agreement sets forth the general terms of employment:

The Commission hereby employs Bradshaw for an indefinite term as Airport Director effective as of June 28, 2012. . . . Such employment shall end upon Bradshaw's resignation, death or termination for any reason by the Commission. Should Bradshaw voluntarily resign his employment prior to contract expiration, his notice of resignation shall be tendered to the Commission no less than [thirty] days prior to his departure date in order to assure his status as resigning in good standing. Nothing in this Amended Agreement shall be deemed to prevent or limit the right of the Commission to determine that Bradshaw shall no longer serve as Airport Director, subject to provisions of Paragraph 3 of this Amended Agreement.

         Paragraph 3 of the agreement provides for severance pay:

In the event Bradshaw is involuntarily terminated by the Commission for any reason other than his death, conviction of a felony, aggravated misdemeanor, or any public offense involving corruption, extortion, willful misconduct, maladministration in office, willful or habitual neglect, or refusal to perform the duties of office, he shall receive severance pay in the amount of twelve months' salary in effect at the time of Bradshaw's termination.[1] Such severance pay shall be paid to Bradshaw, at his election, either in one lump sum within thirty (30) days of his effective date of termination [sic]. Provided however that in the event the Commission terminates Bradshaw's employment on the basis of willful or habitual neglect, or refusal to perform the duties of office, in order to avoid payment of severance pay, the Commission must have first provided written notice of such basis and provided Bradshaw a reasonable opportunity to correct such basis.

         And paragraph 13 of the agreement provides the agreement "represents the full and complete understanding and agreement of the parties."

         The circumstances surrounding the cessation of Bradshaw's employment are not in dispute. On September 2, 2014, Bradshaw informed two commissioners he had a pending job offer. Bradshaw requested a salary increase, and he informed some of the commissioners he would resign if the increase was not approved. The commissioners informed Bradshaw they did not have the authority to approve a salary increase without a vote of the full commission and, in any event, they would not recommend a salary increase.

         On September 3, Bradshaw emailed his resignation to the Commission. The email stated, "After careful consideration, I have decided to resign my position here at the Eastern Iowa Airport." The email went on to say, "My last date of employment will be November 3, 2014. Of course I will be ...


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