Former veterans services officer appeals termination to SD Department of Labor
Davison County's former veterans service officer who was fired in November has filed an appeal to the South Dakota Department of Labor for "unlawful disciplinary action" and for "wrongful termination."
Jessica Davidson, through her Sioux Falls-based attorney R. Shawn Tornow, is seeking a judgment from the state regarding her termination by the Davison County Commission, according to recently filed documents.
In December, Davidson told The Daily Republic she believes she was fired for "whistleblowing" on the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs. She was fired on Nov. 29 via a letter signed by Davison County Commission Chair Brenda Bode, who has declined to comment on the matter.
State law says the Department of Labor and Regulation will now conduct an investigation and hearing and will issue an order covering the points raised, which is binding on the employee and Davison County.
Tom Hart, deputy secretary of the state Department of Labor and Regulation, explained that an administrative law judge will conduct a hearing and investigation to draft a decision whether the county's termination of Davidson violated South Dakota law. Hart said the typical grievance appeal takes three to five months to complete.
Included in the notice of appeal filing to the state Department of Labor is a grievance resolution letter signed by Davidson, dated Dec. 26, 2017. Davidson names Commissioner Dennis Kiner as her supervisor, and the letter is an attempt to follow the county's problem/grievance resolution procedure.
Addressed to Kiner, the letter attempts "in an open and professional manner — to hopefully resolve ... my complaints as a Davison County employee regarding Davison County's improper and unlawful termination of my employment as the Davison County Veterans Service Officer," it says.
In her letter, Davidson claims the county commission did not follow its Personnel Policy Manual in several areas, such as finding out a reason for the termination.
" ... I fully and firmly believe that the County's improper disciplinary action — resulting in the November 29th wrongful termination of my current appointed term of employment as Davison County's Veterans Service Officer — was unlawfully originated, considered and/or administered and wholly lacking in due process based on what I believe to be a number of reasons including, but not limited to, illegal retaliation against me ... for proper reports I made to appropriate authorities, and/or potentially discriminatory in nature in contravention of unlawful harassment protections ... "
Davison County, through deputy state's attorney James Taylor, responded in a letter dated Jan. 19, which ultimately states Davidson's claims "are completely without merit." The letter states that the Davison County Personnel Manual "clearly states that employment with the County is at will." And that means that Davison County may terminate employment at any time, with or without cause or advance notice.
Taylor notes that Davidson signed the receipt of reading the personnel manual on Nov. 25, 2014.
The notice of appeal and the appeal's attachments were sent to Taylor, representing Davison County, and Hart, of the state Department of Labor and Regulation.