Clay County settles harassment lawsuit
MOORHEAD, Minn. -- Clay County will pay a former deputy sheriff more than $1.5 million by 2025 to settle a sexual harassment claim she brought against a former sheriff, attorneys for the woman announced Tuesday.
Under terms of the settlement between Kathleen Cline and the county over the alleged actions of Larry Costello, the county's insurance company will pay $872,854 within 30 days. It will also pay Cline a total of $632,789 spread over monthly payments from Sept. 15, 2008, to March 15, 2025.
The county board approved the settlement Tuesday.
Cline had accused Costello of forced sexual contact, unwanted sexual advances, and denying her promotions to lieutenant.
Her attorney, Jim Kaster, said the lawsuit reflected the worst type of sexual harassment. "This was abuse of power of the worst kind," he said. "This was not a sexual relationship."
Ann Goering, attorney for Costello, issued a statement that said the settlement did not admit to any wrongdoing by her client or the county. She said the county settled only out of a concern for the cost of taking the case to trial.
Reached by phone at his lake home Tuesday, Costello said he would have preferred to fight the case at trial. Costello had acknowledged having an affair with Cline, but denied doing anything wrong.
Costello resigned from office last April citing work-related back problems. The announcement came a week after he was charged with felony theft of public funds.
In June, Costello pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of misconduct by a public officer, a misdemeanor.
Costello was charged with purchasing six two-way radios with county funds and giving them to friends. The radios cost $452. He had claimed he intended to repay the county.