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Dickinson Civil Service Commission hears Jennifer Gooss appeal

The fate of the recently fired Dickinson city attorney is still uncertain after an appeal hearing with the Dickinson Civil Service Commission on Thursday morning.

The fate of the recently fired Dickinson city attorney is still uncertain after an appeal hearing with the Dickinson Civil Service Commission on Thursday morning.

Jennifer Gooss, the former city-employed attorney, argued that the city has handled other cases of employee misconduct differently than hers while attorneys for the city said she violated professional conduct codes set by the state Supreme Court.

Gooss was fired on June 29 after an internal investigation centered around her conduct while compiling with an open-records request made Feb. 26 by her husband, Jeff Gooss.

The city, represented by current city attorney Haylee Cripe and city prosecutor Christina Wenko, both of the Mackoff Kellow law firm, said the reason Gooss was fired was because she did not immediately notify city officials of the conflict of interest.

Cripe said that Gooss' failure to do that was a violation of the North Dakota Supreme Court Code of Professional Conduct-a separate set of rules lawyers are bound to uphold in their professional careers-which states a lawyer shouldn't represent a client if their duties are adversely affected by a third party.

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Cripe said the city "no longer had faith in her (Gooss') ability to represent them" because of the conflict of interest and Gooss' failure to recognize the conflict. She added that Gooss should have been able to denote the possible conflict and said Gooss had been maintaining the conflict of interest for months.

Wenko said Gooss should have understood the conflict of interest could have eventually caused bigger problems, such as potential litigation by her husband when he was seeking employment at the Dickinson Police Department as he had claimed that there were severe inaccuracies in his open-record findings.

Gooss argued that the possible litigation by her husband and the original open-records request were two separate issues that were months apart and shouldn't be considered a part of the same issue. She also argued there was no conflict interest because she only received redacted records to give to her husband in a sealed envelope.

She said that in order to violate the professional code of conduct, "there must be representation and an adverse affect that is either guaranteed, likely or probable."

Gooss also cited the city's inconsistency in handling employee misconduct.

In her statements, she included a November 2015 case where a manager employed by the city was found to have willfully altered and intentionally falsified records, and the 2014 Trinity High School arson case, where Dickinson Police Detective Sgt. Kylan Klauzer committed his third offense of failing to mirandize an individual. Two of those cases were considered "high profile," Gooss said.

She said in both cases, written warnings were issued, though she viewed the cases as more severe.

Civil Service Commission President Ray Ann Kilen said after hearing everyone's comments, she felt as a private citizen that Jennifer Gooss had made a bad call by having any involvement with her husband's open-records request.

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However, she noted that she wondered if the city was correct to fire Gooss, rather than use other forms of reprimand with the situation.

The commission will discuss its findings over the next week and will give a decision about the appeal on Aug. 11.

Related Topics: DICKINSON
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