Lawsuit against Clallam County prosecutor settled

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols has settled a lawsuit with Tina Hendrickson, a former office manager who sued him over alleged sexual harassment.

A 10-day civil trial that was set to begin this coming Tuesday in U.S. District Court Western District of Washington was stricken Tuesday of this week.

“It’s settled and the trial is off,” said Bill McCool, a spokesman for the Tacoma-based court.

No details about the settlement were available Thursday. The parties have until Dec. 24 to file settlement/dismissal documents, McCool said.

“I don’t know if they’re going to be publicly available or not,” McCool said in a Thursday interview.

“Whatever is publicly available, we’ll post on the docket on or about Dec. 24.

“Right now, there’s nothing.”

Gig Harbor attorney Terry Venneberg, representing Hendrickson, and Seattle attorney Suzanne Kelly Michael, representing Nichols, did not return phone calls Thursday.

Nichols and Hendrickson also did not return phone calls.

Settlement talks were ordered Nov. 21 by U.S. Magistrate Judge David W. Christel. The pretrial conference was moved from last Friday to Tuesday, court papers said.

“They provided a notice of settlement, so the trial was terminated, as were the deadlines,” McCool said.

Hendrickson, who is no longer employed by Clallam County, was a family friend of Nichols when he hired her after he was elected to his first term as prosecutor in November 2014.

Hendrickson said she rejected Nichols’ unwanted romantic overtures, claiming that he forced her to hug him and touched her inappropriately on her buttocks “a couple of dozen times, on a pretense of removing loose strings,” according to her interview with county Human Resources Manager Rich Sill.

Nichols said he heeded Hendrickson’s rejection of romantic involvement and vigorously disputed her allegations of sexual harassment.

Nichols earned a second term in November, defeating former Clallam County Treasurer Selinda Barkhuis in an election that was certified Nov. 27.

Federal District Court Judge Benjamin Settle postponed a trial set for Oct. 16 in May after Nichols said he would be too busy campaigning for re-election and his attorney said she had a scheduling conflict.

The case has cost $171,183 for Nichols’ defense, according to county records.

The Washington Counties Risk Pool is covering Nichols’ legal expenses under a policy that has a deductible of $100,000 per case, Sill said in a prior interview with the Peninsula Daily News.

In 2016, four former county employees accepted a $1.6 million settlement to resolve an age and disability discrimination lawsuit against then-Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly and Nichols, who worked as chief deputy prosecuting attorney when the lawsuit was filed in 2009.

Nichols and Kelly denied any wrongdoing.

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Senior staff writer Paul Gottlieb contributed to this report.

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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