EVERETT (AP) — Snohomish County has agreed to pay $585,000 to settle a free-speech lawsuit brought by its former ombudsman.

The Daily Herald reports that the county council approved the settlement with John Koster, now a Republican state representative, on Monday. Koster was fired as ombudsman in 2014 after he signed onto a fundraising letter for an Olympia think tank, the Freedom Foundation, that criticized government union leaders for supporting left-wing causes.

Some Democratic elected officials said the letter compromised Koster's neutrality as ombudsman, but Koster sued, saying the firing violated his First Amendment rights.

The county did not admit wrongdoing. Council Chairman Brian Sullivan said it was best to avoid an expensive trial, which could have run up millions of dollars in legal costs.

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