Former YPAL employee files four million dollar claim - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Former YPAL employee files four million dollar claim

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Yakima, WA -    The City of Yakima finds itself in the middle of another potentially expensive legal mess.

A former YPAL employee has filed a four million dollar claim against the city.

Crystal Dodge says in the claim that her supervisor, Officer Ben Hittle, at the Yakima Police Athletic League from November 2005 to March 2006, harassed her.

The claim says Hittle created a hostile work environment by teasing Dodge about her speech impediment, and when dodge went to her superiors, namely Police Chief Sam Granato, the behavior was allowed to continue.

Dodge's attorney, Bill Pickett, says the city's decision to throw out the first investigation when it discovered what he believes were unfavorable findings are a big red flag.

"The response by the city was to one mark that as a preliminary report," say Pickett, "And then, two, to call it a redo. That raises a great concern."

The city has 60-days to respond to Dodge's claim.

Right now, Zais says they need more time to look over the claim.  The city just got it on today (Thursday).

He did reiterate that apologies to Dodge had been issued after receiving the findings from the second investigation, and steps have been taken to make sure harassment like this doesn't happen again.

But whether that means the city is willing to consider a settlement, Zais says it's still too early to say.

"The city just received this claim," says Zais, "We're going to look it over very carefully, but it is an extraordinarily big dollar amount.  Four million dollars is quite extraordinary, yet we will look at it in light of what has been occurring here and confer with legal council and insurance carrier."

Zais says the City of Yakima has liability insurance to cover any costs related to a potential lawsuit like this.

Dodge's four million dollar claim comes three months after fired Yakima Police Officer Jeff Brownfield filed a claim for the same amount against the city.

Brownfield's claim has since been rejected and is headed for litigation.