Nichols seeks medical records

PORT ANGELES — A woman who has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols wants to block disclosure of her medical records.

Gig Harbor lawyer Terry Venneberg, representing Nichols’ former employee, Tina Hendrickson, sought a protective order Monday preventing Nichols’ lawyer from issuing and serving subpoenas for Hendrickson’s health care records.

A spokesman at federal District Court in Tacoma, where the harassment lawsuit has been filed, said Thursday that Nichols’ legal counsel must file a response by Monday.

Monday is the deadline for lawyers in the case to file motions on evidence that will be admitted in the Dec. 11 trial, which is scheduled for 10 days.

Trial briefs, proposed questions for potential jurors and jury instructions are due Nov. 20.

It was unclear what health records Nichols’ attorney was seeking.

Nichols said in a deposition in the case that Hendrickson had alluded to mental health issues within her family.

Seattle lawyer Suzanne Kelly Michael, representing Nichols, did not return calls for comment Thursday.

Venneberg said he was notified Oct. 26 that he received an email from Nichols’ attorney giving notice of subpoenas to be issued to health care providers seeking information and records on Hendrickson.

In his response to Michael, Venneberg said it would be “absolutely inappropriate” under rules of civil procedure to engage in discovery after the Aug. 13 deadline.

Venneberg said he was unsuccessful in setting up discovery conferences with Michael and Nichols’ other attorney, Thomas Vogliano.

Hendrickson alleges in a June 1, 2017, complaint that Nichols, who is running for re-election in balloting that ends Tuesday, sexually harassed her between April 2015 to April 2017 by not heeding her rejection of his romantic advances.

Hendrickson left employment at the office in June 2017, according to court records.

Hendrickson contends that Nichols, a family friend and godfather to her two daughters who also was her supervisor as the elected prosecuting attorney, would not let her leave her office until she gave him a hug.

She added in a July 10 amended version of her complaint that Nichols would hug her while “making physical contact with her buttocks,” which Nichols denies.

Hendrickson, Nichols’ former office manager, filed a sexual harassment complaint with county Human Resources April 2017, three months after not receiving a raise in January 2017 that was received by other managers in Nichols’ office.

She said the denial of a raise was part of Nichols’ effort to pressure her to become romantically or sexually involved with him, which Nichols denies.

Alleging that Human Resources had not taken sufficient action on her complaint, Hendrickson filed her civil complaint, asserting Nichols “engaged in hostile work environment sexual harassment” against her.

She is seeking unspecified punitive damages, court costs and attorney’s fees.

According to a report prepared for Human Resources by Robin L. Nielsen of Workplace Consulting in Seattle on the complaint, in which Nielsen found that Nichols had not violated county policy, Hendrickson said that “on a number of occasions,” Nichols told her she had thread or lint on the back of her jacket as an excuse to touch her.

Hendrickson said he “plucked at or patted her buttocks area, ostensibly to remove the thread or lint,” according to the report.

“Mr. Nichols stated he had no specific recollection of picking threads from Ms. Hendrickson’s jackets or other clothing,” according to the report.

“However, Mr. Nichols stated that it was likely he did remove a thread or lint from Ms. Hendrickson’s clothing on a couple of occasions because a neat appearance matters to him, and he and Ms. Hendrickson often attended meetings together,” according to Neilsen’s report.

“Mr. Nichols denied touching Ms. Hendrickson’s buttocks on any occasion.”

Nielsen said Hendrickson did not report telling Nichols to stop touching her or report pushing his hand away.

Federal District Court Judge Benjamin Settle on Oct. 25 rejected a motion by Nichols’ lawyer, Michael, for a summary judgment in the case, determining that a jury, not Settle himself, should decide the merits of Hendrickson’s claims.

Venneberg challenged some of Nielsen’s conclusions in his answer to the motion, including that Hendrickson did not “explicitly” reject Nicholson’s romantic overtures, which Hendrickson says she did.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.

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