Saline Township moves to dismiss sexual misconduct suits

Amelia Flood May 27, 2010, 5:24am

Saline Township is moving to throw out five amended complaints filed against it and former Supervisor Alvin Steiner by women alleging he sexually harassed and threatened them as they sought aid.

The township filed its motion May 20 in the five cases brought by plaintiffs Elizabeth Watkins, Jamie Miener, Melanie Hedlund, Laura Barry and Ailie Ritchie.

Another suit has also been filed against Steiner and the Township with identical allegations.

Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth will hear motions on June 30.

He consolidated the cases for hearing purposes only May 4, the same day the amended complaints were filed.

The five women allege that Steiner molested and groped them when they came seeking public utility and other aid.

They allege that other townsip staffers knew about the incidents and that the township did nothing to prevent Steiner's actions.

All of the women allege that incidents took place over the course of at least one, if not more, years.

They seek punitive damages, compensatory damages in excess of $50,000 per count and other relief.

Saline Township's insurer has also filed a series of declaratory actions seeking the right to refuse to indemnify Steiner in case of a judgment against him.

In the May 20 motion to dismiss, Saline Township wants Ruth to throw out the counts of the suits that pertain to it.

It argues that it is both immune to the claims as a township and that it is not liable as Steiner's superior because he was an elected official and that his actions are outside the scope of his employment.

The township contends that Illinois law holds that an elected official is not considered to be in an employment relationship with the governmental entity that person serves.

Saline Township points to its inability to fire Steiner as an elected official as evidence of its lack of control over him and his actions.

It also points to statements in the amended complaints where the plaintiffs specifically state Steiner was acting outside of his normal duties.

The township also cites its immunity under the state Tort Immunity Act.

The May 21 suit filed by plaintiff Tara Reding is also assigned to Ruth although it is not among those consolidated for hearing as yet.

All of the suits were filed this year.

The plaintiffs are represented by Thomas and Peter Maag.

The township is represented by Lori Vanderlaan.

Steiner is represented by Christopher Swenson.

The cases are Madison case numbers 10-L-031, 10-L-145, 10-L-178, 10-L-219, and 10-L-309.

Reding's suit is case number 10-L-555.

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