KENNEWICK — It turns out Patty Yahne, the Benton County assessor's employee fired because of a campaign sign flap, will receive $300,000 in exchange for not suing the county for wrongful termination.
Yahne agreed last week to accept $100,000 from Benton County, plus $200,000 as an insurance payoff.
The total amount was not made public until Thursday, when a joint news release issued by Benton County and Yahne confirmed the $300,000 amount was agreed to during mediation last Friday.
"Benton County does not acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement document," a news release said. Patty and Joseph Yahne "and Benton County resolved the disputed claims to avoid the uncertainties, burdens and expenses of litigation, and expenses of protracted discovery and litigation."
Assessor Barbara Wagner fired Yahne on Nov. 15, five months after Wagner allegedly confronted Yahne about having a political sign in the yard of her Prosser home.
Instead of removing the sign as Wagner wanted, Yahne added a few more signs for commissioner candidate Shon Small.
Wagner was publicly supporting Max Benitz Jr., the incumbent commissioner.
The sign flap festered throughout the summer and into the fall, culminating with the firing after Wagner was re-elected Nov. 2 to a fifth term.
Public records show that the firing, which Wagner did without going through steps required by a labor union contract, was determined to be improper by county officials.
Wagner then told Yahne she could come back to her job without loss of pay or seniority. But Yahne declined, saying the assessor's office had become a hostile work environment.
Yahne, through her attorney, Scott W. Johnson of Kennewick, said she would accept a settlement of $750,000.
The county's first response was six month's severance pay and 18 months of health benefits.
The settlement does not resolve a pending issue involving a reassessment of the Yahnes' home, which occurred the weeks after the campaign sign confrontation.
Yahne appealed the reassessment, which added $21,000 to the value of her home, alleging it was a retaliatory act.
The Benton County Board of Appeals upheld the reassessment, but the Yahnes have asked for a review by the state Board of Tax Appeals. A review date has not been set.