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Danielson v. Minnesota Department of Education

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

September 9, 2013

Theresa M. Danielson, Relator,
v.
Minnesota Department of Education, Respondent, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Department of Employment and Economic Development File No. 29750857-5

Michael B. Healey, Michael Healey Law, LLC, St. Paul, Minnesota (for relator)

Minnesota Department of Education, Roseville, Minnesota (respondent)

Lee B. Nelson, Amy R. Lawler, of Employment and Economic Development, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent Department of Employment and Economic Development)

Considered and decided by Johnson, Chief Judge; Ross, Judge; and Bjorkman, Judge.

BJORKMAN, Judge

Relator challenges the unemployment-law judge's (ULJ) decision that she is not eligible to receive unemployment benefits because she was discharged for employment misconduct. We affirm.

FACTS

Relator Theresa Danielson began working in respondent Minnesota Department of Education's (MDE) human-resources department in 1999. On August 24, 2011, Danielson was promoted to the position of personnel director II, the head of MDE's human-resources department. MDE Deputy Commissioner Jessie Montano told Danielson to restructure the department by creating a new personnel-services-manager position above the personnel director II. Danielson immediately appointed Natalie Chinander to a temporary unclassified position.

Under Minnesota law and Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) policies, executive-agency employees must obtain delegated authority from the MMB commissioner to make certain employment decisions, such as reallocating[1] employees above a certain level and appointing unclassified employees to classified positions.[2] See Minn. Stat. §§ 43A.15, subds. 5, 7, .36, subd. 1 (2012). When Danielson became personnel director II, she mistakenly believed she had authority to make these employment decisions because her predecessor had received delegated authority from the MMB commissioner. But, in late November, Danielson learned that she needed to acquire her own delegation of authority to make the hiring decisions needed to restructure MDE's human-resources department. She requested the delegation on December 2 and was informed that if she received delegated authority, it would be retroactive.

On December 9, Chinander signed a job audit reallocating Danielson to the new personnel-services manager position. This was a two-level promotion and increased Danielson's salary by ten percent. Danielson initialed the audit in the HR-approval box. On December 15, Danielson signed a job audit promoting Chinander to personnel director II. Although Chinander's salary did not change, the promotion moved her into a classified position. Montano subsequently approved both promotions.

On December 30, MMB delegated retroactive authority to Danielson. But the delegation was limited; it did not permit Danielson to place herself and Chinander into their new positions without MMB approval or an open job posting. Upon learning of the two unauthorized promotions, MMB initiated an investigation. Based on the results of the investigation, MDE concluded that Danielson (1) approved the promotions without proper delegation of authority in violation of Minnesota law and MMB policies; (2)violated the executive branch's code of ethics, codified at Minn. Stat. § 43A.38 (2010), by using her position to gain an undue advantage and a private benefit; and (3)violated Minn. Stat. § 43.15, subd. 7, by appointing Chinander to a classified position before she had served one year in an unclassified position. MDE discharged Danielson on May 10, 2012.

Danielson applied for unemployment benefits. Respondent Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development determined Danielson was eligible for benefits. MDE appealed. Following an evidentiary hearing, the ULJ concluded that Danielson committed employment misconduct and is not eligible to receive benefits because she knew or should have known that she violated MMB policies and ...


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