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Bothamley Lawsuit Seeks Redress

Lawsuit raised as campaign issue reviewed by The Enterprise

With the lawsuit filed by Rone‚ Bothamley raised as a campaign issue, The Enterprise obtained a copy of her suit, which was dated June 4, 2001, and filed in Yakima County Superior Court.

The case is identified as Rone‚ Bothamley vs. Harold Vandenberg (individually and in his capacity as Klickitat County Assessor), Lori Wolford (individually and in her capacity as Klickitat County Human Resources Director), and Klickitat County.

The main allegations listed by Bothamley's attorney were as follows:

During calendar year 2000, Bothamley expressed opinions regarding the proper function of the county Assessor's Office, inadequacy of services provided to taxpayers, and use of county resources. Bothamley also announced her intention to campaign for the office of county Assessor to correct those inadequacies;

From October 2000 through the present, the Assessor, Human Resources Director, and subordinate county employees have engaged in harassment and retaliation against Bothamley for her speech on issues of public concern;

On May 29, 2001, plaintiff Bothamley returned to work from a scheduled maternity leave. Said return to work was without medical restrictions. Upon Bothamley's return to work, the county Assessor removed all of her duties for assessment of real property and assigned Bothamley the duties of a data entry clerk. When plaintiff Bothamley asked the reason for the reassignment of duties, the county Assessor said he didn't think plaintiff "was ready to go back in the field," despite there being no medical restrictions on her return to work;

The reassignment of Bothamley's duties ... was done in retaliation for Bothamley's exercise of rights protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, to preclude plaintiff's contact with the public and further exercise of said rights and in violation of Bothamley's right to equal protection under the law.

In the filing, Bothamley asked the court to award her compensatory damages for the lost wages, anxiety, and emotional distress described in the complaint, as well as a return to the full duties of an appraiser, consistent with her assigned duties prior to taking maternity leave, and purging from defendants' files and records all documentation of disciplinary action taken against her.

The lawsuit was filed by Ryan M. Edgley, a Yakima attorney.

Jim Hagarty, Klickitat County Prosecuting Attorney, said his office is not handling the county's defense in the lawsuit.

"My office doesn't handle discipline, so anything internal between the department heads and personnel department we don't have," Hagarty explained. "The lawsuit against the county comes through my office, but we're not directly handling that. It was assigned to outside counsel familiar with the laws to handle that."

Attorney Paul L. Kirkpatrick, of Leveque & Kirkpatrick, P.S., of Spokane, are representing Klickitat County in the lawsuit.

Kirkpatrick could not be reached for comment on the case by press time on Tuesday.

Hagarty added that Bothamley filed one lawsuit against the county, and the union representing her -- the Klickitat County Employees' Association -- filed an unfair labor practices action against the county related to the same case.

The law firm of Menke, Jackson, Beyer, Elosfon & Ehlis, Yakima, is representing the county in the unfair labor practices complaint.

Attorney Tony Menke said the next hearings in the union's action on behalf of Bothamley would come in November. A decision from the Public Employment Relations Commission, based in Olympia, is expected to make a decision in the case within the next six months.

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