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County Settles With Secretary Fired By Coroner $126,000 Agreement Ends Dispute Whether Dismissal Was Political

The county has paid a former secretary in the coroner’s office $126,000 to settle a claim that she was unjustly fired almost three years ago.

As part of the settlement, Causna Albin had to quit her job as a staff assistant in the county’s Human Resources Department. She also is barred from applying for a job at the county until Oct. 8, 1998.

“I think the settlement’s probably fair,” said Albin, adding that she was surprised the county asked her to leave her current job as part of the agreement.

The county spent more than $20,000 fighting Albin’s claim before going through a mediator.

County Commissioners John Roskelley and Phil Harris said Albin’s departure would smooth any working tensions created by her suing the county.

The county typically tries to reach settlements in which any employee who has sued the county agrees to leave his or her job, the commissioners said. About 500 claims are filed against the county every year, and about 20 of those are personnel claims.

The commissioners said the county wouldn’t necessarily have lost the case in court. But they said settling the $1 million claim for $126,000 was cheaper than fighting it. “Even if we had won, the cost of going to court is astronomical,” Harris said. “That’s a shame, but that’s the way the real world is anymore.”

County Coroner Dexter Amend, who makes $49,631 a year, did not return telephone calls for comment.

Albin made $29,085 a year when she was fired just before the 1994-95 New Year’s holiday weekend. Amend, who was just about to take over as coroner, walked into the office and told Albin she was working her last day.

Albin, now 55, had worked in the coroner’s office for 14 years. She had worked with three different coroners, including Amend during his first term.

Amend replaced Albin with Anne Franks, a Republican activist and former campaign chairwoman for Harris. Franks makes $36,151 a year.

Albin filed a $1 million claim against the county in February 1995, charging that she had been fired because she’s a Democrat. Amend wanted to create an all-Republican office, Albin said.

Amend has claimed he fired Albin because she had problems filling out paperwork in death investigations.

In May 1995, Albin sued the county.

In March 1996, the county rehired Albin in its Human Resources Department.

“She’s just a real nice person,” Harris said. “I think everybody in the county really likes her.”

Albin said she is planning to be a grandmother for a while before looking for work. She said she doesn’t know if she will apply at the county.

“Come a year from now, we’ll see what happens,” Albin said.

Her claim is just one of seven that have been filed against Amend since he took office. So far, taxpayers are paying for all of them.

The county is responsible for paying the first $250,000 of any claim settlement. After that amount, the county’s insurance kicks in.

The county has spent more than $55,000 fighting the six other claims against Amend, filed by grieving people who complain that the coroner handled their relatives’ deaths poorly or insensitively.

None of those claims has been settled.

County officials said the settlement with Albin doesn’t set any precedent regarding the other claims and lawsuits filed against Amend.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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