from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Paul D. Scott,
former sergeant appeals an order affirming the termination of
his employment by the Polk County Sheriff.
Stephen T. Fieweger, Davenport, for appellant.
P. Sarcone, Polk County Attorney, and Megan L. Gavin,
Assistant Polk County Attorney, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.
Polk County Sheriff fired Sergeant Dan Charleston, alleging
he was insubordinate and allowed hostile behavior in the
workplace. The Polk County Civil Service Commission found the
firing was warranted. As did the district court. Charleston
now appeals the judicial review order.
substantial evidence in the record to support the
commission's decision, we affirm the termination of
Charleston's employment. And because Charleston did not
present direct and compelling evidence to overcome the
presumption of honesty and integrity of the commissioners, we
conclude he had a fair hearing.
Background Facts and Proceedings
Polk County Sheriff hired Charleston as a deputy in 1997 and
promoted him to sergeant in 2002. In 2015, Charleston worked
in the court services division, overseeing transportation and
temporary lodging for inmates awaiting court
appearances. At one point, Charleston's duties
included assigning deputies to accompany inmates to and from
the courthouse. But because of complaints of favoritism, in
May 2015, Chief Kevin Schneider shifted that responsibility
to a different sergeant and limited Charleston's duty to
verifying and updating the assignment list. Lieutenant Ron
Richards followed up by verbally informing Charleston that
moving forward, Charleston would need to consult his
supervisor before modifying any assignments.
2015, Sheriff Bill McCarthy sent Charleston a letter of
reprimand. The letter accused Charleston of changing the
deputies' assignments without notifying his supervisor, a
violation of an internal rule prohibiting insubordination,
given the earlier order.
than a year later, in April 2016, the sheriff suspended
Charleston for two days for violating the same
rule-insubordination based on changing the court-trip
assignments without notifying his supervisor. Charleston
unsuccessfully appealed the suspension to the commission.
next month, a string of incidents and corresponding
disciplinary recommendations prompted Sheriff McCarthy to
meet with Charleston. First, in May 2016, Charleston adjusted
the assignment list without consulting his supervisor. That
supervisor, Lieutenant Shawn VanHoozer, reprimanded
Charleston for insubordination and recommended demotion. Next
in the chain of command, Captain James Brown, reviewed the
matter and instead recommended firing Charleston based on his
disciplinary record. Chief Schneider agreed termination was
appropriate, noting the sheriff's office could not count
on Charleston to follow orders.
same timeframe, Polk County labor relations manager Mike
Campbell was investigating complaints of gender bias and a
hostile work environment in the court-staging division.
Campbell interviewed Deputy Beverly Pursley, who recalled an
incident when she was eating lunch at her work station and
Charleston interrupted, ordering her to pick up toilet paper
in the holding cells, a "disgusting" task she had
never seen male deputies required to do. In his interview
with Charleston, Campbell mentioned an employee had
complained about having to leave lunch to check the toilet
after Campbell interviewed Charleston, Deputy Pursley was
eating lunch in the court-staging area when she heard Deputy
Mark VanDePol say, "I'm going to lunch now. Do we
need toilet paper in the H [holding] cells?" Pursley
recalled hearing Charleston and VanDePol "chuckle about
it in low tones." Deputy Pursley testified she believed
Charleston must have told VanDePol about her complaint:
"I thought they were making fun of me." The fact
they found humor in the situation made her feel
"angry" and "humiliated." Deputy VanDePol
admitted making the comment and said, "it was a running
joke in the back." VanDePol said he did not remember who
told him about it, but he was aware it was an issue.
Charleston violated internal rules for neglect of duty and
lack of cooperation,  Lieutenant VanHoozer recommended
terminating Charleston's employment. Captain Brown
approved the termination recommendation, believing Charleston
had a responsibility to prevent a hostile work environment.
Chief Schneider agreed, stating he believed Charleston
intended to "bully" or "intimidate"
Deputy Pursley by showing her complaints would not be kept
reviewing Charleston's record and the recommendations
from the sergeant's superiors, as well as meeting with
Charleston to discuss the allegations, Sheriff McCarthy fired
Charleston. In his written report, Sheriff McCarthy pointed
to Campbell's investigation concluding Charleston's
supervision led to workplace hostility, ...