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Columbia River Fire & Rescue’s Insurer To Pay Out $775K Settlement In Wrongful Termination, Harassment Suit River Fire & Rescue's Insurer To Pay Out $775K Settlement In Wrongful Termination, Harassment Suit

Among the plethora of problems the Columbia River Fire & Rescue District has faced over the past several months, one has been resolved.

Three former employees of the fire district — Jennifer Motherway, Anika Todd and Monica Cade — and CRF&R’s insurance provider settled the lawsuit stemming from the women’s allegations of whistleblower retaliation, sexual harassment, hostile work environment and wrongful termination, among other complaints.

In the lawsuit filed April 7, 2023, Motherway and Todd alleged that top officials at the fire district made demeaning, sexually explicit comments to staffers, mismanaged the district’s finances and rewarded personal friends with plum positions. The pair also alleged the district laid them off under a false pretext.

The fire district’s attorney, Akin Blitz, notified the Spotlight that the district’s insurance company — Special District’s Association Insurance Services — settled the litigation with $375,000 going to Motherway, $250,000 going to Todd and $150,000 going to Cade.

Cade was formerly the director of the Columbia County Retired & Senior Volunteer program, and Motherway had served as the district’s recruitment and retention coordinator and served as a public information officer. Todd was an administrative and financial assistant since 2018.

While Blitz was not the attorney representing the insurance company in the case, he explained that the settlement should not be taken as an admission of fault.

“It doesn’t mean the district did what the district was accused of. It doesn’t mean the district did anything wrong,” Blitz said. “It’s more cost effective to write this check and get a release than fight interminably about it.”

Special District’s Association Insurance Services’ attorney for the case, Karen O’Kasey, declined to comment on the outcome of the lawsuit.

Blitz talked about how settlements can resolve issues at a lesser cost than going to trial, such as the case from Motherway, Todd and Cade.

“This was a typical insurance company economic and business decision driven by the high cost of litigation. The district did not participate in the settlement negotiation, rather; the fire chief was informed.”

He continued, “I doubt the board or the district had any role in this development and neither approved nor opposed the settlement.”

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