Pierce County jury awards ex-deputy prosecutor $2 million in wrongful termination suit

Jurors have awarded $2 million to a former Pierce County prosecutor who sued the county for wrongful termination.

They returned the $2,041,000 verdict Tuesday, Dec. 20, in favor of Doug Vanscoy and Mary Henterly, his wife. They found that Vanscoy was fired in violation of public policy.

“This was an important verdict,” attorney Jack Connelly, who represented the former deputy prosecutor, said in a news release. “This was a tragically terrible way to treat a 35-year lead prosecutor who was following his oath to report criminal misconduct. Doug Vanscoy was fired for doing his job well.”

Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson Adam Faber said Wednesday that he did not have comment about the verdict because the litigation is ongoing.

Asked if that meant the Prosecutor’s Office plans to appeal, Faber said via email: “I couldn’t say at this point. But at the very least the court has the judgment to enter yet ... .”

Vanscoy became the chief of the civil division in 2003 and was fired in 2019, The News Tribune reported. That was after he filed a whistleblower complaint that involved a $50,000 telecommunications contract he refused to approve for the County Executive’s Office.

The news release from Connelly’s office said Vanscoy “discovered that the County Executive’s Office had engaged in misconduct, including entering a document with a false notation in the County Workday system, and contracting with an out of state law firm without following Washington law, County Charter and County Code requirements including bidding requirements.”

Vanscoy argued Pierce County didn’t handle the alleged misconduct appropriately, and that he was fired after he kept pursuing public records related to the investigation.

“The County did not conduct a timely investigation, the County hired a civil attorney with a municipal bond background, rather than a criminal lawyer to review criminal allegations, the County never referred the complaint out for law enforcement investigation or review, and did not request independent prosecutorial review as required by the Rules of Professional Conduct applicable to lawyers,” the news release said.

Don Anderson, executive counsel for Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, was ultimately reprimanded following an independent investigation, The News Tribune reported. Anderson was the mayor of Lakewood for almost a decade.

Connelly’s news release said that Pierce County Prosecutor Mary Robnett told Vanscoy: “I am not going to ask Dammeier to fire Don Anderson,” and that she told Vanscoy to: “Stay away from the Executive’s Office.”

“The evidence at trial revealed that she told Vanscoy, ‘Of course it’s a forgery, but if I said that I’d have to charge it,’” the news release said.

Meaghan Driscoll, an attorney with Connelly Law Offices who represented Vanscoy, said in the release: “Hopefully, this verdict will help to vindicate Doug Vanscoy and restore his reputation after a very misguided decision.”