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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ind. Decisions - "Court: Cedar Lake unjustifiably fired employee"; and Why is this NFP?

Yesterday's 9-page Court of Appeals, Not-for-Publication opinion in Town of Cedar Lake v. Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, and Nicole Hoekstra (mem. dec.) is the subject of a story today by Dan Carden in the NWI Times. Some quotes:

A former Cedar Lake town employee who was discharged for releasing public records in response to a citizen's informal request is entitled to receive unemployment benefits, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

In its 3-0 decision, the appeals court determined that Cedar Lake did not have just cause to terminate the employment of administrative assistant and special events coordinator Nicole Hoekstra for violating a town policy prohibiting "disclosure of confidential town information to outsiders without proper authorization."

According to court records, Hoekstra emailed the minutes of a public meeting concerning an engineering project to Eric Wolverton, one of the engineers working on the project, after Wolverton was unable to attend the meeting and requested the minutes.

Cedar Lake acknowledged to the court that the minutes are a public record, but insisted that Hoekstra should have required Wolverton file an official Access to Public Records request prior to receiving the documents.

Really. More from the story:
The appellate panel incorporated the findings of a Department of Workforce Development administrative law judge into its ruling to conclude that Cedar Lake had no policy in force prohibiting employees from providing public information to the public.

Moreover, the court found, the town failed to use its progressive employee disciplinary procedure prior to discharging Hoekstra, and didn't even inform Hoekstra that her work, which had earned her two promotions in three years, was considered unsatisfactory.

The court said, as a result, Hoekstra was not properly terminated for cause and is entitled to receive unemployment compensation.

ILB: And the ILB's question is, why did the Court of Appeals panel designate the opinion as "not for publication"? One of the bases for making a ruling "for publication" and citable is found at Indiana Appellate Rule 65(A)(3):
A Court of Appeals opinion shall be published in the official reporter and be citable if the case: * * * (3) involves a legal or factual issue of unique interest or substantial public importance.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 21, 2016 06:55 PM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions | Why is this NFP?