A Small Claims Court lawsuit that was filed last October by former Monroe County Zoning Administrator Juanita Murphy against Monroe County Board of Supervisors along with a counterclaim by the board of supervisors was dismissed and entered into the county record last Tuesday.
In a decision rendered by Eighth Judicial District Magistrate Steven J. Westercamp, Westercamp wrote that Murphy alleged the board failed to comply with the requirements imposed by Iowa Code Section 331.321 when she was terminated as zoning administrator. Westercamp said she also asserted claims of harassment and retaliation against the board related to her employment with the county.
In her suit, Murphy said her termination as Monroe County Zoning Administrator on Sept. 4, 2018 failed to follow Iowa code 331.321, thereby causing permanent and irreparable damage to her reputation. She claimed the board did not follow Iowa code, did not offer her the opportunity to meet with the board and ask for a closed session, keeping the meeting private to “avoid the headlines and publicity and permanently damaging my reputation and my career.”
She further stated that she received a certified letter from the board concerning her firing, she requested a meeting and was told it would happen at the end of a regular meeting, providing her ample time to speak to the board and have others speak on her behalf. She said the meeting was placed as the first item on the agenda and pigeon holed into a one-half hour slot. She said she was not given the opportunity to request a closed session.
She said attorney Michael Galloway told her during the hearing that she would receive a letter after the meeting with the final decision on her removal, but the letter was never sent, therefore never legally removed as zoning administrator. She said the board knew that they had not legally completed the process. “Based on this, my appointment as Zoning Administrator was never completed, therefore I am entitled to my zoning wages until my retirement on Feb. 4, 2019. Of course, there would be the legal issue that any actions by anyone else as zoning administrator would be negated as I was still legally the zoning administrator,” she wrote in her suit.
Murphy asked for damages and wages in the maximum amount of $6,500. She also contended that “Monroe County believed I was due this money as I was asked to settle with the county on more than three occasions in an amount greater than this” she wrote.
Judge Westercamp ruled that Murphy failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the board failed to comply with the requirements of Iowa Code Section 331.321, and even if the board in some way violated the requirements of that section of code, Murphy failed to prove she suffered pecuniary damages.
The judge rejected Murphy’s claims of harassment and retaliation by the board because the complaint should have been first filed with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. He said his magistrate court lacked jurisdiction in the matter.
In the supervisor’s counterclaim seeking attorney fees city Iowa Code Section 216.16(6) over the accusation of harassment and retaliation, Judge Westercamp said that since he concluded that section of code does not apply in this case because Murphy did not frame the action as a civil rights complaint, attorney fees were rejected.
The ruling is subject to appeal.