Snohomish County jail officers settle harassment suit

Two former corrections deputies have settled a lawsuit claiming they were subjected to a pattern of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation at the Snohomish County Jail.

Jackie Hall and Dan Bly each received $50,000 and resigned their jobs this summer as part of the agreement reached with county attorneys and a former supervisor. They also released the county and the former supervisor of any other claims for damages.

The settlement ended a 2008 lawsuit they filed in King County Superior Court.

The couple said the lawsuit was the only option to protect themselves after a workplace complaint they filed with Snohomish County’s Equal Employment Opportunity investigator went unresolved for more than two years.

The attorney who handled their EEO complaint, Mark Knudsen, announced his resignation from the county in February, after more than 10 years on the job.

Days later, the county released an independent review of Knudsen’s work. It found he failed to keep records for scores of cases and that employees often waited months — sometimes even years — for resolution to their complaints.

Around the time the report was released, Hall and Bly said its findings corresponded to their frustrating experience.

Hall compared the EEO office to a “black hole.”

After the report, County Executive Aaron Reardon’s former deputy executive, Mark Soine, apologized to county employees for not checking more thoroughly on Knudsen’s work. Soine announced his resignation in April.

Shortcomings in workplace investigations could be costing Snohomish County taxpayers more money.

The county faces a nearly $1 million pending lawsuit filed by a former human resources manager in the planning department.

In the suit, Debbie McPherson claims she was prevented from doing her job and laid off in retaliation for confronting sexual harassment, age discrimination and other inappropriate behavior.

As part of Bly and Hall’s settlement, they agreed never again to seek employment with Snohomish County. They’ve since moved to Florida.

Reached this week, Bly declined to discuss the settlement.

The couple’s attorney, Michael J. Kelly from Auburn-based Van Siclen, Stocks &Firkins, did not return calls for comment.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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