An administrative assistant in the Benton County Assessor’s Office — who was paid $300,000 after being fired from the department — has again been terminated after her husband allegedly threatened to shoot her boss.
Patty Yahne was fired following a heated dispute at the Prosser courthouse in which police reports say her husband, Joe, threatened Assessor Bill Spencer.
Yahne was fired from the department in 2010 by longtime Assessor Barbara Wagner for refusing to take down a campaign sign supporting commissioner candidate Shon Small, who was running against an incumbent Wagner publicly endorsed.
Yahne asked for $750,000 in a wrongful termination claim and eventually settled for $300,000, a third of which was paid out by the county. She had worked in the department for 18 years.
When Spencer was elected in 2014, he quickly rehired Yahne, telling the Herald she possesses “a well-rounded knowledge of the county and the assessor’s office.”
However, at some point things soured over the last five months, and Spencer asked Yahne to retire or be let go from her position, according to a police report of the June 30 altercation.
Upset that Spencer was “lying” about his wife’s work habits, Joe Yahne stormed into the courthouse and confronted Spencer, the police report said. Although a physical fight didn’t break out, Joe Yahne apparently made a violent threat.
“(Spencer) told me that during the verbal altercation Joe made the following statement: ‘I wish I had a gun right now and I would shoot you,’ ” Prosser Officer Raul Sabalza wrote.
Spencer initially declined to press charges, telling police he didn’t feel threatened because Joe Yahne didn’t have a weapon on him, the police report said.
Joe Yahne told police he had nothing more to say to Spencer and left the courthouse.
A few hours after the argument, Spencer changed his mind about pursuing charges and called police back to his office, the police report said. He apparently reflected on the situation and realized it was serious.
“(Spencer) said he felt threatened by Joe and said he was in fear for the safety of his family,” Sabalza wrote.
Joe Yahne admitted to threatening Spencer, saying he was angry because Spencer was a “liar” who had threatened to “kick his ass,” the police report said.
“Joe told me that he was not going to act on the threats and never meant to act on the threats,” Sabalza wrote.
Spencer told the Herald on Tuesday he did not want to talk about the incident or what issues led to Yahne’s firing. The Yahnes could not be reached for comment.
It doesn’t appear from court records that Joe Yahne has been charged with a crime stemming from the argument. Prosecutors in Benton County and the Prosser city attorney’s office both said they have no record of the case.
Benton County paid Patty Yahne an additional $10,000 in 2012 after she sued the county for withholding public records related to a meeting Wagner had with the Tri-City Herald editorial board.
Yahne and her attorney alleged Wagner broke a confidentiality agreement in the $300,000 settlement case by meeting with the editorial board.