Island County settles sexual harassment lawsuit with deputy

The county will pay Deputy Mike Adrian a total of $105,000.

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CAMANO ISLAND — Island County settled a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a Camano Island deputy who claims a superior officer repeatedly touched him in an inappropriate manner.

The county will pay Deputy Mike Adrian, who worked for the Island County Sheriff’s Office since 2017, a total of $105,000. The sheriff’s office also agreed to issue Adrian an award of valor and a life-saving award.

Under the agreement, Adrian will voluntarily resign effective Nov. 1. Until then, he will be on leave.

Sheriff Rick Felici emphasized that his office did not admit to any wrongdoing under the settlement. He said the decision to settle was strictly financial.

“It’s cheaper to settle than go to trial,” he said.

Adrian alleged inappropriate behavior by his supervisor, Sgt. John Nieder. As the lawsuit points out, Nieder was previously fired from the sheriff’s office for sexually harassing a female detective in 2015. The deputy’s guild, however, supported him in an appeal to an arbitrator, who found that Nieder did commit sexual harassment and that his testimony was not credible, but that the decision to fire him was too harsh.

Adrian, who has worked for the office since 2017, alleges that he reported to Felici in March 2019 that Nieder had “approached him from behind and grabbed his chest underneath his protective equipment in an aggressive and sexual manner,” the lawsuit states.

Adrian later claimed Nieder touched him again on several occasions, including on the shoulder after he got into a car accident, court documents state.

The sheriff’s office investigated the sexual harassment allegations and found that they were unsubstantiated.

Adrian also claimed he saved the life of a citizen in 2020 and apprehended a barricaded murder suspect by himself in 2021; fellow deputies allegedly recommended that he receive special honors for the acts, but he only got a $25 Amazon card, the lawsuit states.

The sheriff’s office, however, denied that multiple deputies asked that Adrian receive the award.

The lawsuit lists other small complaints. Adrian complained that $135 was deducted from his uniform allowance, his request for additional training was refused, he was told to return his department-issued duty weapon after he purchased his own, he was assigned an old patrol vehicle and Nieder parked at an “access point” and watched him.

In addition, the lawsuit alleged that the sheriff and others torpedoed his application for a position with the Mason County Sheriff’s Office.

Besides sexual harassment, the lawsuit claimed battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress, “false light,” negligent hiring, negligent supervision, violation of civil rights and retaliation.

This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication to The Herald.

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