Clark County to pay $250K to settle worker’s discrimination lawsuit

It does not admit any wrongdoing in hiring of Don Benton

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Clark County has agreed to pay Anita Largent $250,000, so long as she steps down as the Department of Environmental Service’s division manager for sustainability and outreach.

The terms of Clark County’s settlement agreement with Largent, who sued the county alleging unlawful hiring practices, were released on Tuesday. The lawsuit called for damages of at least $300,000.

The settlement was reached after an all-day mediation session with retired Clark County Superior Court Judge John Skimas.

Since Friday, Largent has been on paid administrative leave. Her last official day of work is June 15. She is not expected to return to work before then and is currently on vacation.

“Everybody realized it’s difficult for something like this to happen and then have everyone go about business like it didn’t happen,” said Greg Ferguson, Largent’s attorney.

Environmental services staffers were notified of Largent’s leave of absence on Friday. The county wouldn’t acknowledge Monday that the settlement had been completed.

In a joint statement released Tuesday, the county and Ferguson said the Washington Counties Risk Pool, the county’s insurer at the time of the complaint, had authorized the county to settle.

The county thanked Largent, 62, for her years of service.

The terms of the settlement are neutral about the case itself. The county does not admit wrongdoing, a common settlement provision. The payout amount — $250,000 — represents more than two and a half years of Largent’s salary, which is roughly $91,764 a year.

Filed in December, the lawsuit alleged the county violated state and federal civil rights laws and its own hiring practices when Commissioner Tom Mielke and Commissioner David Madore, both Republicans, hired state Republican Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, to head the department in May.

The commissioners bypassed the county’s hiring practices before hiring Benton, and Largent was not allowed to apply.

Largent had served as environmental services’ interim director for three months following the departure of the department’s previous department head, Kevin Gray. He left after filing a whistle-blower complaint against Mielke last February. Gray alleged Mielke tried to stop an investigation into possible misuse of funds and work time by county employees, including one who was also Mielke’s friend and neighbor.

Mielke and Madore agreed to pay Gray $59,064 in severance following his departure. Gray dropped the complaint.