Kiro, Avery Settle Harassment Suit -- $160,000 Agreement A `Business Decision'

KIRO president Ken Hatch and Ann Avery, who accused him of luring her to Seattle with a job and then seducing her, have disagreed on many things in the past few years:

The meaning of the heart-shaped bottle of vinegar she gave him on Valentine's Day. The symbolism of silk pajamas and 129 flowers he gave her for her birthday. The definition of sexual harassment itself.

Yesterday, they agreed to a $160,000 out-of-court settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Avery against KIRO, Inc. and Hatch.

Not surprisingly, they disagreed on the meaning of the agreement.

Avery said it validated her contention that her boss sexually harassed her.

"Why would I have received this money if there was no substance to my claim?" said Avery, 45, a $50-an-hour consultant who researched promotions and baby-boomer buying habits for KIRO at public-relations agency McNight and Co. Inc.

Avery, who is now a graduate student, worked for KIRO between February and April 1991.

In a prepared statement, Hatch, 58, called the settlement a "solid economic business decision even though I am confident that I would have been vindicated in court."

The settlement saved KIRO money, said Hatch, who estimates court costs would have exceeded $500,000.

The settlement does not have a confidentiality clause, at Avery's request, and does not assign guilt or innocence to either side.

The trial details were not expected to be the stuff of lurid bestsellers, though Avery, a former Manhattan socialite, says she may write a book about the Seattle ordeal.

Both parties agree there was never any sexual activity. But they disagree on the symbolism of corny letters signed "love," long lunches and various gifts.

One of the most unusual gifts was a wristwatch Avery sent to Hatch that had a photograph on its face showing Avery standing in a rock-star pose wearing a mini-coat and holding a guitar between her legs.

Hatch said the watch was a sexual come-on that made him believe Avery was interested in him.

Avery said the picture was part of a spoof she sent to Hatch, along with an explanatory letter, to demonstrate her versatility and creativity.

KIRO lawyers tried to portray Hatch, who was raised in a small Utah town and has worked for the same organization for 36 years, as a bumbling Romeo who was teased and exploited by Avery as he went through the final stages of a divorce from his second wife.

Avery, a former Miss Alabama and ex-wife of ABC television mogul Roone Arledge, says her former glamorous life was probably one of the things Hatch was attracted to.

But all she ever wanted from Hatch was a good career. "Never in my wildest dreams would I have dated Ken Hatch," she said.

Lawyers on both sides say the lawsuit would have tested aspects of the state's sexual-harassment law, including whether the law considers a consultant an employee.

Lonnquist says Avery was a KIRO employee who was stashed at the McKnight agency. KIRO's lawyers say that since Avery was a consultant, Hatch was not her boss and his attempted courtship was not illegal.