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Pierce County settles for $1.7M with former top-level staffer who sued over alleged discrimination

Adrian Florez

Pierce County has reached a $1.7 million settlement with a former top-level employee in the executive’s office.

Carol Mitchell, who is Black, claimedwrongful termination, retaliation, and racial discrimination after she was fired in the summer of 2020, right when racial justice protests flared across the country and months after filing a whistleblower complaint, alleging Pierce County is a hostile workplace.

In earlier interviews, Mitchell told KNKX that she believes she was fired for speaking out about racial and gender discrimination — including at the highest levels of county government.

“We were fully prepared to take this matter to trial,” Pierce County Communications Director Libby Catalinich said in a statement Monday. “We disagree with the allegations and merits of the claims. However, we recognize a settlement was in the best interest of all parties.”

In a phone call Monday afternoon, Mitchell said she thought that Pierce County’s top leaders were ready to transform justice services when she was hired in 2017. Unfortunately, she said, they weren’t ready to do that.

“The power brokers at the Pierce County executive’s office now know that they, too, can be held accountable for their illegal conduct,” Mitchell said.

This is one of several large settlements reached by the county in recent months, including a $1 million one reached last year with three Black women, who complained of racial discrimination at the Pierce County Jail, where they work.

KNKX previously interviewed Mitchell about her experiences working at Pierce County for Episode 3 of The Walk Home podcast.

Kari Plog is a former KNKX reporter who covered the people and systems in Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties, with an emphasis on police accountability.