Former Marshalltown Community College employee files wrongful termination suit

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS – Former Marshalltown Community College associate professor Tamara Damman is suing Iowa Valley and an associate dean for wrongful termination, among other claims.

A former Marshalltown Community College instructor discharged following multiple student complaints has filed for wrongful termination.

On April 17, Tamara Damman, who worked as an associate professor at the college’s dental assisting program for nearly three years, was told her contract would not be renewed effective May 14. She filed civil claims against Iowa Valley Community College District and Marshalltown Community College Associate Dean Beth Johanns on April 24, court documents show.

Damman’s conduct came into question when college students filed complaints with the Iowa College Aid Commission in the fall of 2018, according to Marshall County court records. The court documents are partially redacted and to shield the nature of the students’ complaints.

From October 2018 to April 2019, Damman met with district and Iowa State Education Association officials about the students’ complaints, the resulting investigation, corrective actions suggested to Damman and Damman’s employment status.

Damman’s claims include negligent or reckless hiring, supervision and retention, as well as wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The charges filed against Johanns include tortious interference with Damman’s employment rights and civil conspiracy. Damman is also suing both the district and Johanns for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Damman was hired to her position in August 2016 and her contract for the 2018-19 school year included $58,700 in earnings, according to Damman’s personnel records obtained by the T-R through a public records request.

The T-R also made an official request for the reason Damman was terminated, which is required to be released by public institutions in most circumstances. However, Damman had a probationary contract with the district and the district’s legal counsel at Ahlers and Cooney P.C. of Des Moines said such probationary instructors’ contracts can be terminated or not renewed without cause under Iowa Code.

“If somebody is terminated without cause, then they’re not being terminated as a result of disciplinary action,” said Drew Bracken, an attorney for Ahlers and Cooney.

The court documents show both the district and Johanns deny any wrongdoing.

“We’ll defend the college and don’t believe that there is any validity to the claims,” Bracken said.

District leaders didn’t have further comments due do the ongoing litigation.

“As our former instructor has chosen to litigate the (Iowa Valley) board’s decision to not renew her probationary contract, then I am not at liberty to discuss anything else related to the litigation that’s pending and hasn’t been resolved,” said district Chancellor Chris Duree.

Damman’s legal counsel, attorney Megan Flynn of Coppola, McConville, Carroll, Hockenberg and Flynn P.C. of West Des Moines, sent a statement regarding the case:

“Ms. Damman values the time she was able to spend teaching bright minds at the Marshalltown Community College dental assisting program. Ms. Damman takes great satisfaction in seeing so many of her former students obtain employment and prosper in the dental assisting field. At the same time, Ms. Damman was witness to actions at MCC her conscience could not ignore, and in that respect, will let the lawsuit speak for itself.”

The district charged the T-R $25.53 to produce the seven pages of personnel records after a period of three weeks.

There are several ways the case could go from here. The next basic step is the discovery phase, where the parties in the suit collect and exchange information to strengthen their cases. After that, the case could be dismissed by a judge, settled out of court or go to trial.