County zoning administrator was fired for criticizing her boss

By: - November 13, 2023 9:30 am

A Warren County administrator was forced to resign in August after she criticized her supervisor’s management of the zoning department. (Photo by Getty Images)

A Warren County administrator was forced to resign from her position in August after she criticized her supervisor’s management of the zoning department.

According to state records, Warren County Zoning Assistant Administrator Karoline Ellwanger and her supervisor, Zoning Director Lindsey Baughman, attended an Iowa State Association of Counties conference on Aug. 24, 2023. While there, Ellwanger approached Baughman and a colleague and began discussing issues that pertained to the county zoning office. Ellwanger allegedly said she felt excluded from certain projects the office was undertaking, and expressed concern over the manner in which Baughman led the office.

A few days later, Ellwanger arrived at work and was summoned to the county board room where Baughman allegedly informed her she would be fired if she didn’t sign a memorandum of understanding agreeing to immediately quit her job. At the time, Baughman allegedly declined to give a reason for the termination. Ellwanger signed the memo, which guaranteed her a month’s worth of wages and benefits.

At a recent hearing dealing with Ellwanger’s application for unemployment benefits, Baughman contested the application and testified that Ellwanger had been fired for insubordination.

Administrative Law Judge Carly Smith ruled that Ellwanger was eligible for benefits, finding that her conduct was “merely an isolated incident of poor judgment,” and not insubordination.

Ellwanger “should not have approached Baughman with her concerns during a conference,” Smith ruled. “However, there was no evidence that the employer had warned (Ellwanger) she was not following reasonable instructions. An employee is entitled to fair warning that the employer will no longer tolerate certain performance and conduct.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.