A mediation today between Chief Deputy Linda Yankee and her boss, Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton resulted in a settlement of 15 months of salary—worth $188,000 plus benefits and attorney's fees—for Yankee.
As WW reported last week, Yankee filed an incendiary tort claim notice on Jan. 29, allegedly that Staton had harassed her and made numerous sexually charged statement about other county officials.
Staton is also under a investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice for comments he allegedly made in a Jan. 11 meeting about the county's charter review committee, which is considering whether Staton's position should be appointed, rather than elected, as is currently the case.
The terms of the settlement between Yankee and the county call for Yankee to be on paid administrative leave starting March 1 and going through June 1, 2017, while receiving her $150,000 salary and full benefits.
The terms of the settlement are a little bit unusual. Typically, when Multnomah County agrees to settle a claim, the county attorney's office negotiates on behalf of the county and the money comes out of county reserves.
In this case, Staton's privately retained attorneys, Paula Barran and Richard Hunt represented Staton. And, the settlement will take a bite out of Staton's budget because the sheriff is now paying one of his three chief deputies not to work. Adding the cost of benefits to Yankee's salary, the tab for the settlement is close to $300,000.
Multnomah County spokesman Dave Austin says the decision to end the dispute was Staton's.
"Sheriff Dan Staton settled this case. He's an independently elected official who has to answer to his own staff and constituents," Austin says. "We understand this settlement certainly might raise more questions than answers for the public. The sheriff will have to be the one to answer those questions."
Staton's spokesman, Lt. Steven Alexander was not immediately available for comment.
Yankee's declined to comment but her attorney, Sean Riddell, issued a statement.
"My client and I appreciate the hard work, candor and professionalism the Multnomah County attorney's office exhibited throughout this process," Riddell says.
UPDATE, 12:25 pm: Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury has issued a statement, repeating her call for a state investigation of Sheriff Dan Staton.
“The recently announced settlement agreement between Sheriff Dan Staton and Linda Yankee to settle sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims underscores my questions and concerns about the work environment in the Sheriff’s office.
In addition, the people of Multnomah County deserve a full accounting of the allegations that the Sheriff’s office collected personal information about the members of our charter review committee. This should include what information was gathered by what means and for what purpose, especially if the intent was to intimidate or threaten members to shape the outcome of committee decisions.
I have reached out personally to the Attorney General because I believe it is more important than ever to move forward with their independent
investigation into these matters. The people of Multnomah County deserve clarity that only the Oregon Department of Justice can provide.”