Former Saline Township supervisor fights to keep assets

Amelia Flood Sep. 20, 2010, 4:45am

A former Saline Township supervisor is fighting to keep his assets from being placed in a trust at the request of six women who are suing him and the township over claims of sexual battery.

Defendant Alvin Steiner filed his opposition to an Aug. 23 motion filed by plaintiffs Elizabeth Watkins, Jamie Miener, Ailie Ritchie, Laura Barry, Melanie Hedlund and Tara Reding to have his assets placed in a constructive trust until the suits pending against him are decided.

Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth will hear the trust motion at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 24.

The women are suing Steiner and township on multiple counts worth $50,000 each along with punitive damages and other relief.

All of the suits contain nearly identical claims that Steiner groped and sexually harassed the six women when they came to Saline Township seeking public aid.

The plaintiffs also claim that Steiner threatened them in an attempt to stop them from coming forward.

The suits claim Saline Township enabled Steiner's actions.

Steiner resigned as township supervisor last year.

The defendants deny the claims.

In the Aug. 23 motion, the plaintiffs claimed Steiner had begun transferring assets in order to hide them in case of judgments against him.

"Plaintiffs' counsel did not need a crystal ball to foretell the actions of Alvin P. Steiner in this case," the motion reads. "Given his conduct that led to six sexual battery lawsuits . . . it is only a matter of time until fraudulent transfers begin."

The plaintiffs also contend that Steiner has not produced financial documents ordered by the court.

In the Sept. 10 opposition motion filed by Steiner, the defendant claims that estate-planning asset transfers were not fraudulent and that some of the actions were undertaken by Steiner to aid his wife in case he died.

Steiner claims that he has a history of health problems dating back six years and that his attorneys undertook estate planning activities on his and his wife's behalf in case of Steiner's death.

The motion claims that at the time the transfers occurred in February, the defendant was only aware of one of the lawsuits pending against him.

The motion includes a summary of the transfers and they total five, all to Steiner's wife, JoAnn Steiner.

"If Mr. Steiner intended to hinder or delay potential creditors, he would have made the Transfers upon his resignation from the Township in November 2009, of upon first receiving the Watkins complaint in January," Steiner's opposition move reads. "Instead, as with many elderly couples forced to deal with health concerns and the eventual need to provide for efficient succession and management of property, the need was apparent that an orderly estate plan be put in place.

"It had been twelve years since the Steiners had updated their estate plan and Mr. Steiner wanted to ensure his wife would be taken care of if anything had gone awry during the surgery."

The plaintiffs, in their reply to the opposition motion filed Wednesday, continue to dispute Steiner's claims about the transfers.

"The record before this Court makes clear that after being originally sued, and becoming aware that more similar litigation was coming, Mr. Steiner sought to transfer away his assets to prevent his victims from collection of any potential judgment in these cases, and then tried to hide the fact," the reply reads.

"Quite simply, Defendant Alvin Steiner made false statements of fact to this Court, under oath, and his attorney said nothing, even though, from the transfer documents, it is clear that Mr. Steiner's attorneys (Mark Weinheimer of Polsinelli Shughart, P.C.) drafted the paperwork to effectuate the transfer that Mr. Steiner denied occurred."

The plaintiffs also question Steiner's claims to ill-health and the reasons for the transfers.

"Mr. Steiner, and his attorneys, are claiming he is not well," the reply reads. "Yet Mr. Steiner, and his attorneys previously went to great pains to convince this Court that Mr. Steiner is healthy. Mr. Steiner cannot on one hand, claim he is healthy and has no health reasons to transfer any assets, when he is trying to delay proceedings in this case, and then transfer assets, and claim that he is unhealthy. One of those two things is false, as Mr. Steiner cannot have it both ways."

Thomas and Peter Maag represent all of the plaintiffs.

Christopher Swenson and Lori Vanderlaan are among those who represent Saline Township.

Mark Weinheimer represents Steiner.

The Saline Township cases are Madison case numbers 10-L-31, 10-L-145, 10-L-178, 10-L-219, 10-L-309, and 10-L-555.

The Watkins suit, 10-L-031, was the first of the series filed earlier this year.

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