Firefighter Waits Too Long To Challenge Appointment Of Fire Chief

Kida Newell is a firefighter with the City of Jackson, Ohio. In June 2004, the fire chief’s job became vacant. Newell and Douglas Reed were two of the five people who took the examination for the job. The Civil Service Commission determined that Reed was the only applicant who received a passing score on the examination. On February 24, 2005, Reed was appointed Fire Chief.

In December 2006, Newell filed a “quo warranto” lawsuit with the Jackson County Court of Appeals seeking to remove Reed from the office of Fire Chief and to appoint her.

A “quo warranto” lawsuit is an unusual legal beast, and contends that a public office is being unlawfully held by one person and that the person bringing the lawsuit is entitled to the public office. Newell contended that she, and not Reed, should have been appointed as Fire Chief, and that she was more qualified than Reed.

The Ohio Supreme Court dismissed Newell’s lawsuit. The Court found that “where an appointee in the classified services completed his probationary period, he cannot be ousted by quo warranto even though testing or grading procedures were fraudulent. To be entitled to a writ of quo warranto to oust a good-faith appointee, an individual must file the action before the appointee completes the probationary period and becomes a permanent employee.

“The evidence is uncontroverted here that Reed is a good-faith appointee who was not aware of and did not participate in any irregularities in the Civil Service Commission’s proceedings. Newell did not take affirmative action to challenge Reed’s appointment until after his probationary period had expired. Accordingly, Newell’s lawsuit lacks merit.”

State ex rel Newell v. Jackson, 886 N.E.2d 846 (Ohio 2008)

This article appears in the August 2008 issue