|SETTLEMENT REACHED IN CLAIM AGAINST SHERIFF|
|December 19, 2001 12:00 am|
GOLD BEACH A $50,000 settlement was reached recently in the tort claim of former dispatcher Kerry Kraft against Sheriff Kent Owens and the Curry County Commissioners.
Owens said in a press release Tuesday that the countys insurance company, Northland, conferred with the county, then agreed to a compromise settlement of $50,000, which included wages, attorney fees and damages.
Owens said Monday that when the suit was filed, he promised to inform the public of the outcome when it was settled. He said Tuesdays press release would fulfill that pledge.
Krafts claim contended she was discharged from the Sheriffs Office on June 15 for opposing unsafe working conditions.
The claim also said Kraft had not been paid wages owed her in a timely fashion under state and federal wage and hour laws.
The Kraft case began in April 1999, when the Sheriffs Office implemented a new 911 communications system with headsets that integrated telephone and radio communications.
Kraft complained that the headsets did not work properly and posed a safety hazard for officers who could not hear the dispatchers.
Owens said the problems were soon fixed, but that Kraft continued to complain inside and outside of the department.
He said she wrote a letter indicating that she would keep complaining after her one-year new-employee probationary period expired Aug. 3, 1999.
The Civil Rights Division of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries then investigated the case.
It issued a notice Oct. 1, 1999, finding substantial evidence of unlawful discrimination.
Complainant, it is clear, said the notice, was terminated for indicating that she intended to complain about a safety hazard.
Owens has always maintained that he dismissed Kraft during her probationary period for being a problem employee, not for blowing the whistle on a safety problem, which was soon fixed.
He said he had every right to dismiss an employee on probation who was not working out.
He said he didnt need to give Kraft an explanation, but did so because he likes to treat people fairly.