Insurer wants out of Saline Township sexual misconduct suits

Amelia Flood Apr. 29, 2010, 5:37am



Saline Township's insurance group does not want to cover the former township supervisor embroiled in a series of sexual misconduct suits.

The Township Officials of Illinois Risk Management Association (TOIRMA) filed a series of complaints seeking declaratory judgment beginning April 6.

In each of the five complaints the group which insures Illinois townships asks to be allowed to enforce exclusion clauses that would bar it from covering former Saline Township Supervisor Alvin Steiner in the event that verdicts are returned against him in five pending civil suits.

Five women – Elizabeth Watkins, Jamie Miener, Melanie Hedlund, Laura Barry and Ailie Ritchie – are suing Steiner and Saline Township over sexual misconduct and battery allegations.

The women, who have nearly identical claims, allege that Steiner groped and molested them sexually when they came seeking utility and other public aid. They are suing Saline Township as Steiner's employer.

Steiner has denied the charges. He resigned as township supervisor in November 2009.

The suits were filed beginning in January 2010.

Saline Township has moved to dismiss the suits. The suits seek in excess of $50,000 per count, costs and punitive damages.

Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth is set to hear motions in the five cases May 14 at 9 a.m.

Saline Township filed a motion to consolidate all five cases.

In the declaratory judgment pleas, TOIRMA argues that it is not obligated to indemnify Steiner from the civil judgments because his alleged actions run afoul of exclusion provisions in the township's policy.

TOIRMA points to coverage exclusions related to personal injury, the knowing violation of the rights of another person, and criminal acts.

The insurer argues that Steiner's actions are excluded under those clauses.

"TOIRMA has no duty under the Public Officials and Employees Liability Form of its Policy to defend Steiner for the underlying complaint or to indemnify him for any settlement or judgment entered therein," the motion reads.

It asks the court to apply the exclusions, find that it does not have to cover Steiner and that it does not have to indemnify under the township's policy.

The declaratory judgments have not been assigned to a particular judge.

Ruth presides over four of the five underlying civil suits. Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder presides over the suit filed by Ritchie.

TOIRMA is represented by Terese Drew and Carol Proctor.

Steiner is represented by Chris Sweson.

Saline Township is represented by Lori Vanderlaan.

The five plaintiffs in the underlying complaints are represented by Thomas and Peter Maag.

The declaratory judgments are Madison case numbers 10-MR-72, 10-MR_73, 10-MR-74, 10-MR-86, and 10-MR-87.

The five suits against Steiner and Saline Township are case numbers 10-L-31, 10-L-45, 10-L-178, 10-L-219, and 10-L-309.

More News