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City of Davenport v. Washburn-Livingston

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 11, 2019

CITY OF DAVENPORT, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
LYNN WASHBURN-LIVINGSTON, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Stuart Werling, Judge.

         A former fire chief appeals a district court ruling holding the Davenport Civil Service Commission did not have jurisdiction to order the fire department to create a position for her.

          Michael J. Carroll and Megan Flynn of Coppola, McConville, Carroll, Hockenberg & Flynn, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Richard A. Davidson of Lane & Waterman LLP, Davenport, for appellee.

          Considered by Mullins, P.J., Bower, J., and Vogel, S.J. [*]

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         Lynn Washburn-Livingston (Washburn) seeks reversal of the district court's finding the Davenport Civil Service Commission (Commission) did not have jurisdiction to grant her continued employment with the Davenport Fire Department. We find Washburn's prior Illinois fire-fighter status did not afford her Iowa civil service status. We affirm the district court.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         In 2011, Washburn was appointed as Fire Chief for the City of Davenport (City). Prior to her appointment, Washburn worked for the Rockford, Illinois, fire department for nearly thirty years and was serving as district chief when hired by the City. Washburn retired from Rockford before starting as Davenport Fire Chief.

         The letter offering Washburn the Iowa job specified the fire chief position was at-will employment and required she obtain certification on the civil service list for the position. Washburn was certified on September 23, 2011. The offer letter did not grant her civil service status or transfer her Illinois status or benefits to Davenport. The offer letter specified a severance package in the event of involuntary separation but did not provide for continued employment at a lesser position.

         On July 27, 2017, the City terminated Washburn as fire chief. Upon removal from the position of fire chief, Washburn was not employed by the City in any capacity.

         On August 9, Washburn filed a notice of civil service appeal with the Commission, claiming she was entitled to a position as district chief with the department after her removal as fire chief pursuant to Iowa Code section 400.13(2) (2017). The Commission found in her favor and ordered the City to employ her in the classification of district chief.

         The City appealed to the district court. The court found the Commission lacked jurisdiction to consider Washburn's appeal and vacated the Commission's decision. Washburn appeals.

         II. ...


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