Then-Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe listens to opening statements in a case in Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett in 2012. (Mark Mulligan / Herald file)

Then-Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe listens to opening statements in a case in Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett in 2012. (Mark Mulligan / Herald file)

Second lawsuit accuses Roe of crudeness in workplace

A former victim advocate filed the new lawsuit against the retired Snohomish County prosecutor.

EVERETT — A second lawsuit has accused former Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe of using vulgar and discriminatory language on the job.

Longtime victim advocate Kari King alleged her former boss created a hostile workplace rife with insensitive comments and crude innuendos, “with malice or with reckless indifference to the protected rights of the plaintiff,” according to a complaint filed in May in King County Superior Court.

King alleged Roe referred to heavyset women as cows or hogs; criticized women’s diet choices; and advised attorneys he would “never put a fat chick on (a) jury (because) they were stupid and lazy.”

In a written response to the claim released to The Daily Herald, Roe acknowledged he’d engaged in “playful banter” and acted casually outside of the courtroom, but strongly denied King’s claims.

“Most of what Ms. King alleges is patently false, and did not occur, and to the extent anything did occur or was said, her lawsuit embellishes, exaggerates, distorts, and takes them totally out of context,” he wrote. “For example, I have long had valued friends, colleagues, and employees of all different shapes and sizes. The suggestions otherwise, or that I judge peoples’ worth so superficially is ridiculous.”

The former prosecutor retired at the end of 2018.

King is seeking $750,000 in damages.

Earlier this year an administrator in the office, Bob Lenz, sued his former employer on the grounds that Roe did not rein in inappropriate behavior among employees, made frequent crass jokes and retaliated when Lenz spoke up about it.

Roe denied those claims, too, as “either completely false and untrue, or grossly twisted and distorted.”

Lenz is seeking $900,000.

Both plaintiffs are represented by Robin Williams Phillips, a Seattle attorney who has brokered six-figure settlements with Snohomish County in recent cases involving sexual harassment.

Snohomish County is named as the lone defendant in both lawsuits. King worked as a victim advocate in the office from April 2003 to 2016, according to her complaint. Her job was to guide crime victims and their families through the often overwhelming maze of criminal court proceedings.

In her claim, King attributed 16 inappropriate phrases or actions to Roe, such as openly discussing a preference for skinny women; calling employees “(expletive) face”; referring to men in the office by a gay slur, and referring to one employee as “retarded”; telling a woman that if she wanted to advance in the office, she’d “need to start losing weight”; allowing a photo to be shared of a naked, obese defendant; having a habit of standing close to women in his gym shorts, with his foot up on a desk.

King alleged Roe laughed at demeaning sexual comments by deputy prosecutor Christopher Dickinson. About two years after King left her job, Roe fired Dickinson for drunken, sexually inappropriate, criminal behavior at a work conference last summer at Lake Chelan.

Both King and Roe referenced Dickinson sharing explicit photos of a girlfriend in a courtroom. In his statement to the press, Roe said he didn’t know about the photos until about the time of the firing.

King had undergone surgery in 2016, and she claimed she was denied a request to work part-time from home while recovering. She was hospitalized twice for complications from the surgery and requested time off again, according to her lawsuit.

“She was hounded to provide information regarding her ailments requiring plaintiff to share a self-photo depicting her health issues,” the complaint says.

She felt unfairly targeted by internal investigations, at Roe’s behest.

According to Roe, it was Lenz who oversaw much of the investigation into King’s conduct at work, and Lenz recommended multiple times that she be fired, but Roe declined to terminate her.

King claimed she tried to report the harassment to many people, who are not named in the lawsuit, but she was met with no effort to stop it. She left her job due to “the defendant’s failure to accommodate, the sexually abusive atmosphere and defendant’s retaliatory conduct,” according to the complaint.

King is seeking monetary damages for emotional pain and suffering, as well as a policy overhaul at the prosecutor’s office.

The county has not responded in court.

Roe served about a decade at the helm of the prosecutor’s office. Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell ran unopposed for the office in 2018.

Cornell responded to the new lawsuit this week in a written statement:

“Ms. King’s claims are focused upon the comments and other conduct of my predecessor, and frankly describe conduct that is highly inappropriate in any workplace. As I have stated often since taking office, I consider it particularly important that a prosecuting attorney’s office, which the public looks to for the enforcement of laws, operate at the highest level of professionalism and respect. Ms. King’s complaint is currently under review. The County takes this and all suits filed against it seriously and will professionally, responsibly, and vigorously defend all claims believed to be without merit.”

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

Roe’s response to the lawsuit:

In 31 years at the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, as the Chief Criminal Deputy starting in 2002, and the elected prosecutor starting in 2009, I am not aware of anyone accusing me of creating a hostile work environment until now, and that includes Ms. King. The county has multiple avenues through which someone can complain about conduct by another that creates a hostile work environment, but nobody did. I believe that’s because I didn’t do or say things that warranted such complaints, either then, or now. Most of what Ms. King alleges is patently false, and did not occur, and to the extent anything did occur or was said, her lawsuit embellishes, exaggerates, distorts, and takes them totally out of context. For example, I have long had valued friends, colleagues, and employees of all different shapes and sizes. The suggestions otherwise, or that I judge peoples’ worth so superficially is ridiculous.

It is true that I have a reputation for being unconventional and casual in my out of court dress, manner, and communication. I have always been much more informal and plain-spoken than most in my position. I have long engaged in playful banter with dozens of my coworkers and colleagues throughout the county and the state, and that didn’t change when I was elected.

Ms. King’s suggestion that I engaged in such banter with Chris Dickinson is also misleading. I did not. He and I were not friends, just coworkers. Further, I certainly had no knowledge that he was showing explicit pictures while at work until after his conduct at Lake Chelan last June, and terminated him immediately upon learning of his behavior. ( … ) I had little contact with Ms. King after becoming the elected prosecutor in 2009. I delegated that role to Joan Cavagnaro, the Chief Criminal Deputy who succeeded me, and Kameon Quillen, Ms. King’s direct supervisor. Bob Lenz conducted much of the investigation involving Ms. King’s workplace conduct, advised myself and management on personnel matters, and on multiple occasions recommended that she be terminated. Ms. Cavagnaro and I declined to do so.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Work on the light rail trackway will require over two weeks of overnight closures of 236th Street SW near I-5 in Mountlake Terrace. (Sound Transit)
Overnight closures set for 236th Street in Mountlake Terrace

The closure just east of I-5 means a detour for drivers to reach the interstate until Oct. 14.

Marysville man shot in hand during apparent drug robbery

At least two suspects were being sought, and police are seeking surveillance video.

Zach Graham stands in front of a newly restored Three Fingers Lookout. (Friends of Three Fingers Lookout)
Volunteers give makeover to precarious Three Fingers Lookout

Up high, with cliffs on all sides, the 90-year-old hut got much-needed new windows, shutters and paint.

The city of Everett is pursuing changing its municipal code's language to replace gender-specific pronouns with gender neutral words. Instead of his/her the code would use the specific position or title, such as police officer or public works director. (City of Everett)
Everett considers gender-neutral terms for municipal code

References to “he” or “she” could change to title-specific words such as “firefighter” or “police officer.”

Michealob Johnson (left), 25, is accused of killing Jae An at the Food Mart in the 6900 block of Broadway in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Trial begins for man who admitted killing a mini-mart clerk

Michealob Johnson is accused of aggravated first-degree murder in the 2019 stabbing death in Everett.

Driver who died in Everett car crash identified

Thomas Ogden, 43, was driving Tuesday morning on Rucker Avenue at 41st Street when another car crashed into his.

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff (center) takes a ride on light rail from the Angle Lake Station in Seatac with King County Executive Dow Constantine (left) on Sept. 21, 2016. (Ian Terry / Herald file)
CEO of fast-growing Sound Transit system to step aside

The search will begin soon to replace Peter Rogoff, who leads the multibillion-dollar transportation network.

The site of a new development along May Creek Road next to the entrance of Wallace Falls State Park on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021 in Gold Bar, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Gold Bar considers home parking permits near Wallace Falls

In the past, parking spilled from Wallace Falls State Park into town. Decals could avoid conflicts.

Bothell clinic helps kids exposed to drugs and alcohol

One in every 10 kids in the U.S. had prenatal exposure. The consequences are numerous.

Most Read