Benton County has paid another $10,000 to a former employee of the Assessor's Office who collected $300,000 on a wrongful-termination claim a year ago.
The new money is to settle Patty Yahne's claim that the county withheld public records relating to Assessor Barbara Wagner allegedly violating a confidentiality order regarding the first settlement.
Yahne claimed Wagner fired her Nov. 15, 2010, for having a campaign sign in her yard.
The settlement reached in May 2011 in exchange for Yahne not filing a wrongful-termination lawsuit included a court-approved mediated agreement that Yahne and Wagner would not talk about it.
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In July, just two months later, Wagner asked to meet with the Tri-City Herald editorial board so she could present information about what happened between her and Yahne. Wagner insisted the newspaper not write a story about what she would present, which was to be background information.
No story was published about what Wagner and three of her top employees who also attended said at the meeting.
One month later, Yahne submitted four public records requests to Benton County asking about Wagner's involvement in meeting with the editorial board.
Yahne, through attorney Scott Johnson, asked for:
w Emails from April 1 to Aug. 19, 2011, to and from Wagner and her three employees who attended the newspaper meeting.
w Internet history for the same period from computers used by Wagner and her three employees.
w Any notes, papers or documents generated by Wagner or any county employee "prepared for, used at or generated" before or after the meeting.
w Time sheets for Wagner and her three employees on the day of the meeting.
Court records obtained by the Herald show the county agreed to provide everything but reneged on turning over notes, papers or documents related to the Herald meeting.
Johnson then sued for Yahne in September, seeking a court order to obtain the records that had not been provided.
Benton County hired outside counsel and also hired separate counsel for Wagner in trying to reach an agreement with Yahne, said David Sparks, county executive administrator.
Sparks said two attorneys were needed because of a potential conflict of interest between the county and Wagner. Wagner, who is an elected official, is entitled to having a county-paid attorney when the issues involve county business.
The 8-month-old dispute was resolved this week when county commissioners signed off on the arbitrated agreement about Yahne's public records request.
Yahne is getting $10,000, and there is no restriction on anyone talking.
Yahne could not be reached for comment, and Johnson did not return phone calls.
Wagner said she agrees with the settlement language: "That the county and I are held harmless."