KENNEWICK — Benton County appears ready to pay up to $100,000 to settle a wrongful termination dispute with a former assessor's office employee.
And ex-employee Patty Yahne is taking the deal.
After a 15-minute executive session Monday, county commissioners voted unanimously to authorize spending no more than $100,000 to settle the matter.
Yahne, who worked in the assessor's office for 18 years, was fired Nov. 15 by newly re-elected Assessor Barbara Wagner. Wagner allegedly told Yahne that she was being fired because she talked to the Herald about a mid-summer incident involving a political yard sign.
Yahne had posted a sign in her Prosser front yard supporting Shon Small, who was running to unseat a longtime county commissioner. She had refused Wagner's directive to remove the sign.
Yahne's firing was done improperly, and Wagner offered her the job back the next day. Yahne refused, saying the assessor's office had become a hostile work environment.
Monday's commission vote came the first weekday after county representatives and Yahne's attorney, Scott Johnson, met for the first mediation session with Yakima attorney David Thorner.
Yahne originally asked for $750,000, while the county's initial offer was six months' severance pay and 18 months of paid health benefits.
"This case has been resolved," Johnson said Monday, adding that the county and Yahne have a confidentiality agreement that prevents them from discussing any details.
Johnson said the settlement does not address Yahne's dispute over the reassessment of her home in June.
Yahne alleged the reassessment was done in retaliation over the campaign sign dispute.
The county appeals board upheld the reassessment, which Yahne has challenged at the state hearings board. No hearing date is set.
-- John Trumbo: 509-582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org