Prosecutor's office could face age, disability lawsuit

The attorney for four people claiming age and disability discrimination by the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney's Office has filed a formal claim against the department, estimating a request of $1 million in damages each.

The claim, which cannot be forwarded to the Clallam County Superior Court until it has been in the county auditor's office for 60 days, alleges that four former employees received discrimination based on age or disability.

The claim was filed on Sept. 30, meaning the earliest an actual lawsuit could be filed would be in the first week of December.

The four claimants are Carol Case, deputy prosecuting attorney, Elain Sundt, once an office administrator, Kathy Nielsen, a former deputy prosecuting attorney, and Hollie Hutton, who is representing her mother Robin Porter, a former legal assistant who died in January.

The Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney's Office has issued a statement denying the allegations against the department, stating that the county has accommodated employee disability issues and has policies in place to deal with discrimination and harassment.

The statement indicated the department hired an unidentified, but independent investigator to look into the matter once it received word the claim was being filed. The investigator found no harassment, hostile work environment or discrimination, according to the statement.

The attorney who filed the claim, Richard Creatura, indicated he has received accounts of discrimination from several more former employees than were listed in the case.

"There are a number of

e-mails and other documents in the prosecutor's office that we will be seeking to verify claims in this case," Creatura said.

Representatives at the prosecuting attorney's office were unable to comment on the issue as the matter may become a legal suit in the coming weeks.

"The county will aggressively defend against these claims as the evidence will undisputedly demonstrate that the county not only took all appropriate actions in a timely fashion but also had policies and training in effect to prevent and/or address claimants' complaints," the county's statement read, going further to say the employees or former employees had a means to address the problem earlier and failed to fully do so.

"The county also had a policy for redress and administrative remedies for claimants, which included a grievance and appeals process. The claimants have failed to take full advantage of those remedies."

Creatura denied the allegation for his clients, stating the issues had been brought up, but not sufficiently dealt with internally.

Now the claim will sit and wait in the auditor's office. After 60 days Creatura and his clients may file the lawsuit. From now until then both the claimants and the county are able to enter preliminary negotiations for an early deal, but neither party indicated any negotiations have taken place.

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