CAMANCHE — A judge has reversed the decision of the Camanche Civil Service Commission and ruled that the termination of Camanche police officer Patrick Luckritz was justified.

“He became an impediment to effective law enforcement for the citizens of Camanche,” Judge Gary D. McKenrick wrote. “The Court concludes that termination of Luckritz’s employment with the Camanche Police Department is the appropriate sanction for Luckritz’s repeated and flagrant misconduct.”

Luckritz, a Camanche police officer since 1997, was fired by Police Chief Bob Houzenga on June 29, 2006, for six stated reasons including conduct unbecoming an officer, violation of departmental policy, neglect of duty and three counts of insubordination. The claims relate to incidents wherein Luckritz allegedly confronted First Assistant County Attorney Ross Barlow in the Clinton County Attorney’s Office in January 2006 over Barlow’s handling of a case and conducted an investigation outside the scope of his employment.

City officials alleged Luckritz began to investigate his perceived case of misconduct by the Clinton County Attorney’s Office by e-mailing the Iowa Attorney General’s Office from his home and complaining about the Clinton County Attorney’s Office. Luckritz was accused of not notifying his supervisors at the police department regarding his actions, failing to testify in court about a curfew case on Feb. 9 and three separate incidents of insubordination including dishonesty.

According to court documents, the judge found that Luckritz’s failure to appear at the trial for the curfew violation merits no more than a verbal reprimand, but the matter should be considered in the context of the other claims of misconduct. McKenrick also found that Luckritz did not engage in any independent investigative process without authorization of his superiors, but simply made complaints to what he believed to be the appropriate authorities regarding the conduct of the assistant county attorney and County Attorney Mike Wolf.

However, McKenrick found that for Luckritz to make complaints without the knowledge of his superiors, is a “legitimate point of concern” for the police department and had the “potential for creating impediments to the efficient prosecution of criminal matters. The documents state that by failing to utilize the chain of command to address concerns, Luckritz caused disruption to the “easy camaraderie” of the department.

Further, the court found that while Luckritz reasonably was concerned about the conduct of Barlow and Wolf, a response from the Attorney General’s Office explained that “no impropriety existed in the prosecutorial conduct of Barlow and Wolf” and went on to give reasons why their conduct was desirable. In spite of the explanation, Luckritz pursued the matter and filed a formal complaint with the Attorney Disciplinary Board. McKenrick found that Luckritz gave Houzenga a deceptive response when asked if he had made other complaints to any other entity than the Attorney General’s Office.

“That some other motivation was animating Luckritz further is exemplified by the continuing deterioration of respect shown by Luckritz toward the staff of the Clinton County Attorney and toward his superiors in the Camanche Police Department,” the decision states. “Most egregiously, Luckritz repeatedly was insubordinate...”

After he was fired in June, Luckritz was informed he had 14 days to file an appeal with the Civil Service Commission and that his pay and benefits were being terminated on June 29.

Luckritz appealed, seeking to be fully restored to his previous rank and be given back pay and benefits. His case was heard by the commission on Sept. 5, 6 and 7. On Sept. 13, the commission decided to modify the termination by reinstating Luckritz, but demoting him to patrolman first class. He was placed on one year of probation and was to be reviewed in writing every three months during the probation period. He also was given a 30-day suspension without pay and benefits from the date of his termination and ordered to issue a formal apology to Wolf and Barlow.

In January, Luckritz claimed a violation of his civil rights and filed a civil lawsuit in U. S. District Court against the city of Camanche, Houzenga, Wolf, Barlow and the Clinton County Attorney’s Office. In February, Luckritz filed ethics complaints with the Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. Wolf stated later the complaints were dismissed by both entities.

The city appealed the commission’s reinstatement decision in early September, asking that the court overturn the ruling and terminate Luckritz for good. Luckritz claimed that his termination was excessive given he was exercising his rights under Iowa Code 70A.29, the Whistleblower’s Act, and his complaint was not an investigation. Luckritz acknowledged he missed the February 2006 hearing, but claimed other officers had missed trial dates and had not been fired.

With the reversal of the decision rendered by the Civil Service Commission, the termination of Luckritz as of June 2006 was reinstated. Luckritz can appeal the court’s ruling to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.

In the court’s decision, McKenrick said testimony presented was exemplified by a quote of Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is... a failure to communicate.”