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News / Clark County News

Clark County agrees to pay $1.4 million to Benton, Clifford and Rice

The three former county employees already received $693,998 from a jury in their wrongful termination case

By Mark Bowder, Columbian Metro Editor
Published: September 15, 2021, 5:45pm

The Clark County Council has agreed to pay Don Benton and two other former county employees $1.4 million less than four months after a jury awarded the trio $693,998 in a wrongful termination lawsuit.

The county announced Wednesday afternoon that the Clark County Council had authorized the settlement with Benton, a former Washington state senator and former director of the now-closed Clark County Department of Environmental Health, program coordinator Christopher Clifford and administrative assistant Susan Rice.

Details about the distribution of the funds were not disclosed in the announcement. It said the payout “fully and finally resolves their pending claims against Clark County and resolves any related insurance coverage claims between Clark County and its insurance carriers.”

Under a negotiated settlement, the county and its insurers agreed to pay a total of $1.4 million to resolve the trio’s claims, including their claim for attorneys’ fees.

The county’s insurance carriers will pay $1,005,000 of the total settlement amount, and Clark County has agreed to contribute $395,000.

The three had been laid off from their county jobs in May 2016, about two weeks after Benton submitted a whistleblower complaint about then-county manager Mark McCauley. Their complaint accused McCauley of illegal actions and political retaliation.

In May of this year, the jury awarded Benton $67,798 while Clifford and Rice, who had worked for the county for 19 years, each received six-figure awards.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys noted that Benton, who was a Republican state senator at the time, was awarded less, in part, because he was able to find a job easier than the others, so his economic damages were mitigated.

Benton spent the summer of 2016 managing Donald Trump’s Washington campaign. Seven months after his layoff, he took a job with the Trump administration — first, as a senior White House adviser to lead the transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency and later as the director of the Selective Service System.

Columbian Metro Editor