Former Mercer Island Official Settles Harassment Suit for $1M

By Keith Ervin Seattle Times staff reporter Former Mercer Island Deputy City Manager Londi Lindell will receive $1 million in a settlement of her federal lawsuit in which she claimed she was a victim of sexual harassment and was fired in an act of retaliation. The settlement, signed last week by Lindell and top city officials, comes after a judge’s ruling last month that the city must pay $90,560 in penalties for withholding public records from Lindell. She and the city issued a joint statement Monday saying “both sides recognized that it was time to put this behind them and move forward.” “I’m very much looking forward to closing that chapter and moving on with the next chapter, which would be finding a fulfilling job in either management or municipal law,” Lindell said in an interview. She has been unemployed since City Manager Rich Conrad fired her in 2008 after she took issue with his handling of a disciplinary matter involving the husband of the city’s human-resources director. Lindell was hired in 2000 as city attorney and later promoted to deputy city manager. Under the settlement, Lindell’s employment records will say she resigned, the city will pay an executive search firm to help her find a new job, and Conrad has written a letter of reference saying Lindell consistently received the highest possible performance ratings in Mercer Island and “will be a valuable asset” to a future employer. Mayor Jim Pearman, named as a defendant along with other top city officials, said he wasn’t happy with the settlement, which he said was negotiated on the city’s behalf by its insurer, the Washington Cities Insurance Authority. “I’m very disappointed. I wanted our day in court,” Pearman said. “I feel that the claims that Lindell brought against the city were absolutely without merit and if we had gone in front of a jury, I think a jury would have found them equally without merit,” Pearman said. Lindell’s lawsuit alleges that a City Council member, Ernest “El” Jahncke, commented on her body and told her a managers’ retreat would be a “grab assin’.” The suit makes multiple allegations of inappropriate behavior by city officials and empoyees, including joking both in public settings and via email about body parts and pubic hair. The suit revealed a number of incidents embarrassing to city officials, such as:

  • A sexual proposition Conrad admitted making in 2002 to a female subordinate on an out-of-town trip. The employee, who said Conrad continued to pursue her, later resigned and received a $90,000 settlement.
  • Warnings in 2008 from a former city attorney and an outside investigator that Conrad put the city in legal danger when he followed Human Resources Director Kryss Segle’s advice that he not formally discipline her husband for an off-color joke.
  • Officials joking about Segle’s worry that she had inadvertently exposed herself to a police officer during an exit interview when she was wearing a skirt but no underwear.
  • City Attorney Katie Knight sending pictures to Segle of a scantily clad woman on a desk with her legs over her head and the comment, “Maybe this is how you should conduct your exit interviews.”

After years of defending the city legally, Lindell said she sued her former employer only because “there were other people’s careers at stake and other people were being adversely impacted by decisions that I thought were not consistent with the policy and the law.” This report includes information from Seattle Times archives. Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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