EVERETT — Snohomish County has agreed to pay $625,000 to settle a fourth discrimination lawsuit filed by an ex-employee who worked under former county prosecutor Mark Roe.
The Snohomish County Council on Monday unanimously authorized the settlement to end the lawsuit, brought by former deputy prosecutor Dana Bittinger, who worked for the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office until early 2019.
Bittinger sued the county in King County Superior Court in October, echoing allegations made by other ex-employees that Roe said and did inappropriate things when he served as the county’s top prosecutor from 2009 until he retired at the end of 2018.
Her settlement brings the total county payouts to those ex-employees to more than $1.3 million.
In each of the settlement agreements, the county admitted no fault.
Under the terms of the latest settlement, $264,000 of the payout will go toward attorneys fees and costs.
Roe declined to comment on the specifics of the settlement via email on Monday.
“Until the whole thing is done, as in signed and entered in court, I won’t have anything else to say to add to what I said previously,” he said. “I haven’t been part of the discussion or negotiations, nor should I have been, so I am just hearing about this today.”
Roe previously called the bulk of the allegations made by the first plaintiff, Bob Lenz, “either completely false and untrue, or grossly twisted and distorted.”
The Snohomish County Council in February OK’d a $175,000 payout in the case of Lenz, the office’s former operations manager, who claimed that he faced retaliation for complaining about the workplace atmosphere. Lenz alleged his office was moved and his responsibilities were taken away as a result.
In December, the council authorized a $250,000 payout in the case of former deputy prosecutor Theodor “Ted” Mueser, who alleged he suffered “adverse employment actions” after he complained about an environment that made men “feel threatened and harassed.”
That same month, the council approved a $325,000 settlement to end a lawsuit filed by Kari King, a former victim advocate who claimed the county “did nothing to stop the discriminatory actions.”
Roe would “openly discuss his preference for skinny women,” refer to men in his office as “retards” or homophobic slurs and call heavyset women “cows,” according to King’s lawsuit. Bittinger’s lawsuit made the same claims.
Roe previously acknowledged in a written response to The Herald that 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.
Prosecutor Adam Cornell, who ran unopposed to become the prosecutor after Roe, declined to comment on the latest settlement. The agreement bars county officials from discussing it.
Bittinger, King and Mueser were represented by Seattle attorney Robin Williams Phillips, who said in a Monday email that Bittinger wasn’t available to comment.
Bittinger, who worked for the office from 2010 to January 2019, feared she would lose her job if she complained about the “sexually-charged hostile work environment,” according to her lawsuit.
She alleged that female attorneys were often “passed up for promotion,” and that she and other mothers working at the office were denied full maternity leave. When Bittinger complained, Roe called her names and promoted younger, less-experienced male attorneys before her, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states he also offered her less merit pay than her male counterparts. After she complained in an employment satisfaction survey, he refused to greet her, sneered at her and called her names, it says.
“Mark Roe’s retaliatory conduct was so severe,” Bittinger’s claim states, “the plaintiff was forced to take a medical leave of absence.”
Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.
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