CATHERINE F. MAHONEY, Appellant (Petitioner),
CITY OF GILLETTE, Appellee (Respondent), and STATE OF WYOMING, ex rel., DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE SERVICES, UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE COMMISSION, Appellee (Intervenor/Respondent).
from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable John
R. Perry, Judge
Representing Appellant: Alexander Berger and Sean Brown,
Representing Appellee City of Gillette: Amanda F. Esch, and
Leah C. Schwartz, Davis & Cannon, LLP, Cheyenne and
Jackson, WY; Anthony M. Reyes, City of Gillette
Attorney's Office, Gillette WY.
Representing Appellee Department of Workforce Services,
Unemployment Insurance Commission: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming
Attorney General; Daniel E. White, Deputy Attorney General;
J.C. DeMers, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Peter Howard,
Assistant Attorney General.
DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.
Appellant, Catherine Mahoney, applied for unemployment
insurance after the City of Gillette (City) terminated her
employment. The Unemployment Insurance Commission
(Commission) denied her application and the district court
affirmed the Commission's decision. Ms. Mahoney argues on
appeal, first, that the Commission lacked substantial
evidence to conclude she committed misconduct connected with
her work, and, second, that the City violated her First
Amendment rights when it dismissed her for constitutionally
protected speech. Finding neither argument persuasive, we
We rephrase Ms. Mahoney's issues:
1. Was there substantial evidence to support the
Commission's determination that Ms. Mahoney engaged in
misconduct connected with her work?
2. Did the City violate Ms. Mahoney's First Amendment
rights when it terminated her employment?
Ms. Mahoney worked at-will as a communications technician
(dispatcher) for the City's police department
(Department) for over seven years. On two different occasions
during the course of her employment, Ms. Mahoney contacted
the City's human resources department and the City's
administrator about concerns she had with her supervisors and
work environment. The response she received on both occasions
was to "give it some time." Dissatisfied by these
responses, Ms. Mahoney contacted a member of the city council
and the two discussed Ms. Mahoney's concerns, which
included a hostile work environment, harassment, poor
training programs, and unorganized and unprofessional
supervision-all of which Ms. Mahoney attributed to a lack of
leadership. Their first two meetings occurred in October and
November 2016. The council member told Ms. Mahoney he would
try to help her, but he needed documents regarding her
concerns. They met a second time in November, together with
other dispatchers, and Ms. Mahoney gave the council member
some documents. Ms. Mahoney also gave the council member a
letter indicating why she and other employees were coming to
discuss concerns with him. She signed the letter "on
behalf of the Police Dispatch Employees" and included
her job title.
In early December, Ms. Mahoney emailed herself (at her work
account) correspondence and attached documents to give to the
council member at their next meeting. Among the email's
attachments, Ms. Mahoney sent confidential tables the
Department maintained to show registered alarms in the City.
Ms. Mahoney believed it was the Department's policy not
to respond to calls from unregistered alarm systems. She
thought that her supervisor was not correctly updating the
tables and the failure to do so posed a safety risk to the
City and its residents if the police ever failed to respond
to a call from an alarm that was registered, but appeared not
to be according to the tables. The tables listed residential
and commercial alarms along with personal identifying
information, including names, addresses, phone numbers,
social security numbers, and birth dates. Ms. Mahoney did not
redact this information before emailing it to herself or
before she gave the council member copies of the emailed
documents on December 14, 2016.
In late December, the chief of police discovered the email
Ms. Mahoney had sent to herself. The chief launched an
investigation into the email and met with Ms. Mahoney in
early February. Ms. Mahoney admitted she had given the tables
to the council member. At the conclusion of his
investigation, the chief determined Ms. Mahoney had violated
numerous City and Department policies-policies of which Ms.
Mahoney acknowledged she was aware.
The City dismissed Ms. Mahoney on February 8, 2017. She
applied for unemployment insurance and her application
proceeded through four tiers of review. The Unemployment
Insurance Division of the Department of Workforce Services
initially denied Ms. Mahoney's application, but an
Appeals Division hearing officer reversed that denial after a
contested case hearing. The City then appealed to the
Commission, which reversed the hearing officer's
decision. The Commission found Ms. Mahoney knew of, but
intentionally disregarded City and Department policies and
procedures. The Commission concluded that Ms. Mahoney was
terminated for misconduct connected with her work and denied
her benefits. Ms. Mahoney appealed and the district court
affirmed the Commission's order after considering whether
substantial evidence supported the Commission's decision
and whether that decision violated Ms. Mahoney's free
speech rights. Ms. Mahoney timely appealed the district
In unemployment insurance cases, we review the
Commission's decision "without considering the
decisions of the deputy, the hearing officer or the district
court." Clark v. State ex rel., Dep't of
Workforce Servs., 2016 WY 89, ¶ 8, 378 P.3d 310,
312 (Wyo. 2016) (citing State ex rel. Dep't of
Workforce Servs., Unemployment Ins. Comm'n v.
Kinneman, 2016 WY 79, ¶ 11, 377 P.3d 776 (Wyo.
2016)). The Commission is an administrative agency, whose
decision we review under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 16-3-114(c)
(c) To the extent necessary to make a decision and when
presented, the reviewing court shall decide all relevant
questions of law, interpret constitutional and statutory
provisions, and determine the meaning or applicability of the
terms of an agency action. In making the following
determinations, the court shall review the whole record or
those parts of it cited by a party ...