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Fired Washington Parole Officer Wins $250,000 Settlement

Washington state parole officer Barbara A. Nelson was fired in 1998 after the state was hit for more than $6.4 million to pay off lawsuits alleging negligence for her failure to property supervise parolees. Three men whose cases Nelson handled killed three people, including a high school cheerleader, a 23 year old woman and a retired Seattle Fire Department captain.

But under the terms of a settlement, the state awarded Nelson some $200,000 in back pay and erased the 1998 firing from her personnel record. After her reinstatement, she promptly resigned.

The settlement, completed in March 2000, stemmed from her unions appeal of her firing and a civil lawsuit she brought against the Department of Corrections.

A spokesperson for the Washington Federation of State Employees said the settlement is tacit acknowledgment that there are fundamental problems in the system that cant be correct by singling out one person and putting the blame on them.

The DOC said it settle the case to eliminate the costs associated with protracted litigation. The department still maintains that Nelson bore responsibility in the cases.

Sylvia McFarland, mother of the murdered cheerleader said, Its a sad day for everyone who lost loved ones to people Barbara Nelson was supposed to be supervising. I guess justice wont come on this planet.

Rep. Ida Ballasiotes, co chair of the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, said she was stunned the DOC settled the case and paid Nelson.

I just dont understand why you pay people off for doing a bad job, she said. This is why the public gets really incensed over how things happen in state government. I cant blame them.

A Washington state prisoner (who wishes to remain unnamed) told PLN, I just dont understand why the DOC goes on paying the parole board to do nothing at all. After these multi-million dollar lawsuits, the board virtually ceased granting paroles. This is why prisoners get really pissed about how things happen in state government. Can you blame them?

Source: Tacoma News Tribune

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Related legal case

Nelson v. _____