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Klamath County pays out $431,000 in suit settlements

This year saw a number of legal settlements between Klamath County and litigants ranging from former employees to a suspect allegedly assaulted by former Sheriff Frank Skrah.

The Herald and News recently obtained copies of such settlement agreements, which detailed a total of $431,000 in payments to three litigants.

None of the three settlements required any parties to admit wrongdoing. The county has denied violating the plaintiffs' rights.

The largest settlement was $325,000 to former Property Control Manager and Tax Collector Linda Seater, who sued for wrongful termination in 2014. Seater claimed she was fired based on falsified human resources complaints, and that her termination violated a verbal agreement with county commissioners.

In a settlement reached Aug. 24, the county agreed to pay Seater $115,000 up front and $35,000 per year through 2023. In exchange, Seater released the county from liability as well as defendants Human Resource Manager Daneen Dail and former Commissioner Dennis Linthicum, now a state senator.

The county also agreed to pay former Detective Geneva Lewis $75,000 after Lewis claimed Skrah exploited a workplace injury to terminate her employment in 2016. Lewis said Skrah was retaliating for her cooperation with an investigation that led to Skrah’s conviction May 19 for misdemeanor harassment, assault and official misconduct.

On July 20, Lewis agreed to accept $75,000 for lost wages, emotional damages and legal fees, and in exchange she released the county from liability. Before the settlement, Skrah was removed from the suit because, since he was acting as sheriff during the alleged incidents, the county was liable for his actions.

One suspect allegedly assaulted by Skrah filed suit last year for excessive force and accepted a settlement in September. Kenneth Bragg agreed to receive $31,000 and released the county and Skrah from liability.

Bragg was arrested Feb. 27, 2015, following a standoff in Klamath Falls after he led police on a high-speed chase and made threats to harm officers. Skrah was convicted of harassment for choking Bragg with his bare hand after the suspect was taken into custody.

In addition to these three, Klamath County settled a lawsuit with members of the Fair Board Aug. 31 for $297,500, which was previously reported by the Herald and News. Plaintiffs claimed the county shorted the fairgrounds after inappropriately disbursing bed tax revenue between 2007 and 2013.

In addition to settling claims, the county had six lawsuits dismissed in its favor this year, including five from current and former jail inmates and one against animal control. Multiple other suits are pending, including:

  • A $5 million suit filed Nov. 6, 2015, by Lance Britton, who claims he was wrongfully indicted for attempted murder in 2013;
  • A $750,000 suit filed Jan, 5, 2016, by Fernando Morales Sr. and Fernando Morales Jr., who claim animal control wrongfully euthanized 28 roosters seized during a cockfighting investigation in 2015;
  • A $500,000 suit filed Jan. 18 by Richard Carpenter, who claims the county was responsible for injuries he received while being attacked by a fellow jail inmate;
  • A suit seeking undisclosed damages filed March 3 by Juan Mendez, who claims city police and jail staff used excessive force when he was arrested last year for assault and burglary;
  • A $2 million suit filed Aug. 7 by Larry Glover, who claims he was denied adequate medical treatment after breaking his hand while in jail custody.

— Reach Stephen Floyd at sfloyd@heraldandnews.com.