Commissioners in Douglas County, Oregon agreed Wednesday to pay a fired employee of the Clerk’s Office $40,000 after a lawsuit alleged the firing was politically motivated.The case arose last year when County Clerk Barbara Nielsen fired Kelly Smith, an eight-year veteran employee of the clerk’s office. Nielson said she fired Smith after a stack of tax documents dealing with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians was found in Smith’s possession.
Nielson said she fired Smith because she could no longer trust her. Nielson believed Smith had faxed the documents to someone outside the office. She said Smith had no work-related reason for copying the documents and having them in her possession.
Smith denied doing
anything wrong. In a tort claim filed against the county in
November, Smith said she was matching formats off the documents
with codes on a separate fee schedule.
Neal had also been
involved in Van Slyke’s re-election bid. Van Slyke lost to Dan
Hern in the Republican primary three days before Smith was fired.
Nielsen told reporters she had done everything correctly. “I just don’t want to sit here and act like I’m accepting this because I’d lose, because I don’t feel that way”, she said.
Commissioner Kittelman said Nielsen’s actions in the matter posed a “tremendous liability” for the county.
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