County Council authorizes settlement on Benton, Rice, Clifford lawsuit

Clark County and its insurers have agreed to pay a total of $1.4 million to resolve plaintiffs’ claims

VANCOUVER – The Clark County Council today authorized a settlement with former county employees Don Benton, Susan Rice and Chris Clifford that fully and finally resolves their pending claims against Clark County and resolves any related insurance coverage claims between Clark County and its insurance carriers.  

Don Benton served as director of the Department of Environmental Services for Clark County while also serving as a state senator. He was fired when former County Manager Mark McCauley eliminated the department in 2016. File photo
Don Benton served as director of the Department of Environmental Services for Clark County while also serving as a state senator. He was fired when former County Manager Mark McCauley eliminated the department in 2016. File photo

As a part of the negotiated settlement, Clark County and its insurers have agreed to pay a total of $1.4 million to resolve plaintiffs’ claims, including plaintiffs’ claim for attorney’s fees. Clark County’s insurance carriers have collectively agreed to pay $1,005,000 of the total settlement amount, and Clark County has agreed to contribute $395,000. 

A jury in the wrongful termination lawsuit ruled in favor of the three former Clark County employees on May 20. The jury found that former Clark County Manager Mark McCauley wrongly terminated the three employees when he eliminated the Environmental Services Department in 2016.

Benton filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the county while he was still director of the department. Benton, Rice and Clifford were later dismissed by the county when the Environmental Services Department was eliminated. Rice had served as Benton’s administrative assistant and Clifford served as a program coordinator.

According to an Oregon Public Broadcasting report, the jury awarded $693,998 economic and non-economic damages on 11 of 12 charges. Rice was awarded $391,400 in economic damages. She had previously withdrawn a request for noneconomic damages.

Clifford was awarded $219,800 in economic damages and $15,000 in noneconomic damages. Benton was awarded $22,798 in economic damages and $45,000 in noneconomic damages by the jury.

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