Lawsuit against mental health agency settled

Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare

Two former employees at Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare have settled a federal lawsuit against the mental health agency that alleged top administrators engaged in discrimination and retaliation.

Richard Holmes, a case manager who resigned in 2015, claimed the agency failed to take action after a female case manager subjected him to homophobic slurs. Colleen Studinarz, Holmes’ supervisor, claimed she was fired after she backed Holmes and called for an investigation.

The terms of the settlement were not publicly disclosed. A trial in federal court in Portland that had been scheduled for late June has been canceled.

Amy Baker, the director of Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare, declined to comment.

Attorneys for Holmes and Studinarz did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The lawsuit was filed in 2016 against the mental health agency and Sumuer Watkins, who was the executive director; Nick Benas, who was the director of business operations; and Lois Gilmore, the human resources manager. Watkins and Benas left the agency in 2016 in a management shakeup.

The agency, which holds the contract to provide mental health services in Clatsop County, was under siege at the time over internal divisions and public scrutiny over the quality of care.

A separate federal lawsuit by Cheryl Varese, who worked in the agency’s developmental disabilities unit, alleged retaliation for complaining about unethical and illegal management practices and a hostile work environment. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in March, but Varese is appealing.

Varese also filed a new lawsuit in Clatsop County Circuit Court alleging whistleblower retaliation and violations of state medical leave law.

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