Ruth changes discovery schedule in Saline Township sexual misconduct cases

Amelia Flood Jun. 16, 2010, 6:31am


The scheduling of discovery in a series of sexual misconduct suits against Saline Township and a former official has been changed.

Six suits have been brought by women alleging that former Saline Township Supervisor Alvin Steiner groped, fondled and sexually harassed them when they came seeking utility and other public aid.

Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth signed an order June 4 requiring the parties in five of the six cases to meet and work out issues related to interrogatories and document production requests prior to a July 9 hearing.

The plaintiffs in the five cases, Elizabeth Watkins, Jamie Miener, Melanie Hedlund, Laura Barry and Ailie Ritchie, all allege nearly identical claims.

They claim that Steiner would grope and act in sexually explicit manners when they came to the township seeking aid. Allegedly, he would then threaten them.

The plaintiffs allege that other township employees knew what was taking place and that the township, as Steiner's superior, did nothing to prevent the incidents.

Steiner resigned as township supervisor in November 2009.

The suits were filed beginning with Watkins' case in January of this year.

The suits seek damages of at least $50,000 per count and other relief.

The defendants have motions to dismiss pending in the cases.

Ruth's order states that he will hear arguments on any unresolved issues related to the discovery process at that time.

The order also strikes deposition notices and vacates a prior scheduling order Ruth entered May 4 regarding those depositions.

A new discovery schedule will also be entered July 9.

The most recently filed suit, brought by plaintiff Tara Reding, has yet to be consolidated with the other cases.

Ruth's June 4 order does not include that case as yet.

The July 9 hearing begins at 10 a.m.

Meanwhile, Saline Township's insurance company has filed for a declaratory judgment that would allow it to refuse to indemnify Steiner against damages in the suits.

All of the plaintiffs in the six cases are represented by Thomas and Peter Maag.

Steiner is represented by Mark Weinheimer.

The township is represented by William Knapp, Jeff O'Kelley,
Christopher Swenson and Lori Vanderlaan.

Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis currently oversees the Reding suit.

The Saline Township cases are Madison case numbers 10-L-145, 10-L-178, 10-L-219, 10-L309, 10-L-310 and 10-L-555.

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