The owners of an Olympia-area farm convicted of animal cruelty last year are facing another legal challenge, this time from a former employee.
Veronica Bell is suing Lattin’s Country Cider Mill & Farm and its owners Carolyn Lattin, Debbie Lattin and Sherrie Kohlmann. Bell, who worked at Lattin’s from 2014 to 2017, alleges she was harassed and threatened for reporting safety concerns.
According to the lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court, Bell was locked in a walk-in freezer and later got her hand caught in a cider production machine. She called the state’s Department of Labor and Industries, which cited Lattin’s for two safety violations that the Lattins then corrected.
According to Bell, in June, customers asked her about sick-looking goats on the farm and she encouraged them to file a report. The next day, a Thurston County Sheriff’s deputy came to investigate complaints of animal cruelty and Bell gave a statement to the deputy.
In December, Carolyn and Debbie Lattin were found guilty of second-degree animal cruelty in Thurston County District Court. They were ordered to forfeit 18 goats and were banned from owning goats or similar animals for two years.
Bell quit her job at Lattin’s last year. The lawsuit says she was later diagnosed with PTSD and is in therapy.
When contacted by The Olympian, Debbie Lattin disputed the claims and said Bell was on a campaign to hurt the business.
“She’s the one harassing us. She’s gone to the businesses we sell to and made allegations against (us), she’s gone to the agencies we report to and made allegations against (us),” she said.