Newly hired deputy prosecutor, subject of sexual harassment lawsuit settlement, will resign in 'personal decision'

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Paul Conroy, Clallam County's newly hired deputy prosecuting attorney, is resigning.

“It was a personal decision of mine,” said Conroy, who was the subject of a 2011 sexual harassment lawsuit that was settled by the city of Aberdeen for $580,000 in May 2013.

Conroy said Friday he intends to quit by the end of this month.

He was hired March 3 by newly appointed county Prosecuting Attorney William Payne to prosecute felony crimes.

Conroy was Payne's first attorney hire after he was named to the post in the wake of Deborah Kelly's resignation.

Payne said Friday he knew of the lawsuit settlement when he hired Conroy, a former Aberdeen Municipal Court judge and Grays Harbor County senior deputy prosecuting attorney with more than 20 years of experience.

Conroy's legal troubles came to light in Clallam County in a March 16 Peninsula Daily News story and was previously reported in The Daily World of Aberdeen.

An advertisement for Conroy's position was posted on the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys website March 28.

“I wanted a new start, and I was hoping there would be no more publicity about this, and I still don't understand why it was front-page news,” Conroy said Friday in the brief interview in his courthouse office.

He was visibly shaken, frequently closing his eyes and taking several seconds to answer questions.

“I'm not sure what I am going to do now,” he said.

Conroy said he did not want to talk about whether he will stay in the legal profession.

His salary fell in the middle of the $61,105 to $86,565 range listed in the advertisement, Payne said.

Payne, who was appointed to the position in January and intends to run for the position this November, said Friday he is reviewing “lots of applications” for Conroy's job.

In separate interviews, Conroy and Payne said Conroy was not asked to resign.

Payne said he and Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Troberg tried convincing Conroy to stay and said he had become highly respected during his brief stint prosecuting felony cases.

Payne said Conroy was not specific about his reasons for resigning, saying only that it was for personal reasons.

“I was very disappointed,” Payne said.

“He's a good attorney.”

Conroy was a Municipal Court judge when the city of Aberdeen settled a nearly 2-year-old lawsuit filed by former Aberdeen Court Administrator Aminta Hill.

Neither the city nor Hill admitted any wrongdoing.

In her lawsuit, Hill made claims against Conroy of discrimination and retaliation.

She said Conroy professed love for her in October 2010 and undermined their working relationship after she repeatedly declined his advances. She eventually quit her job, The Daily World reported.

The city hired an independent investigator, who concluded that Conroy likely minimized his involvement with Hill and that Hill likely exaggerated her claims against him, according to the newspaper.

In the March 16 PDN article, Conroy denied the claims in Hill's lawsuit.

Hill's attorneys, Victoria Vreeland of Bellevue and Erik Kupka of Aberdeen, said after the settlement they were proud to represent Hill.

“She pursued her claims, which resulted in a substantial settlement,” Vreeland and Kupka said in a joint statement following the agreement.

“And although the defendants, as is common, do not admit wrongdoing, that kind of a settlement is a clear sign that her claims are valid and her testimony is credible.”

Payne would not say Friday whether he would hire an attorney to replace Conroy.

“I don't want to speculate,” he said.

“It depends on more than one element.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 13. 2014 12:49AM
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