Benton County Agrees to Settle Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

According to the News Tribune, Benton County has agreed to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit dispute with a former assessor’s office employee. Former employee Patty Yahne has agreed to accept a $100,000 settlement from the county after a 15-minute executive session in which the board vote unanimously to authorize spending no more than $100,000 to settle the matter.

Yahne worked in the assessor’s office for 18 years and was fired by the newly re-elected Assessor Barbara Wagner. Wagner allegedly told Yahne that she was being fired because she spoke to a local paper about a mid-summer incident involving a political yard sign. Yahne had posted a sign in her yard supporting Shon Small, who was running to unseat a longtime county commissioner. Wagner instructed her to remove the sign but Yahne refused. The next day, Wagner offered her the job back as the firing was improper per the county’s policies.

Yahne refused to take her job back and cited a hostile work environment. Yahne’s wrongful termination attorney met with a mediator and the county representatives followed by the commission’s vote on the matter. Yahne had originally asked for $750,000, while the county offered six months’ severance pay and 18 months paid health benefits. The wrongful termination settlement does not address Yahne’s dispute with Wagner over the political yard sign.

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