Federal investigators say Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam discriminated against his employees by retaliating against them after they complained about his behavior.
A lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court underlines the point, and reflects the conclusion of a year-long investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into civil-rights violations at Washam's office. The suit names Pierce County as a defendant, but it reflects an agreement reached after months of negotiation between county leaders and federal officials.
While the lawsuit sounds ominous, it represents and end rather than a beginning. The agreement doesn't include any monetary penalties. Instead, it requires training for all employees of the assessor's office within the next 60 days, including Washam and his chief deputy, Albert Ugas. The training is meant to reinforce the correct procedures for handling employee complaints.
"What it basically says is were going to provide some supplemental training and some protections on retaliation at the assessor-treasurer's office," said Mike Patterson, the attorney who represented Pierce County in the federal probe. "Washam and Ugas are required not retaliate against individuals who complained or participated in the Department of Justice investigation. Thats sort of the essence of it. The training component is big with regard to Dale and Albert." The News Tribune will update this story later today.