Ruth bars real estate transfers in Steiner cases

Amelia Flood Sep. 28, 2010, 2:24am


Rather than hearing a move by the plaintiffs in a series of sexual battery cases against Saline Township and former official Alvin Steiner, Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth conferred with attorneys trying to find the best way to keep Steiner's property from being transferred before the suits run their course.

Ruth had been set to hear a move to place Steiner's assets in a constructive trust Friday in a formal hearing.

Instead, the judge discussed the matter with attorneys Thomas Maag, Mark Weinheimer and a representative from the office of William Knapp. Ruth then sent the attorneys to confer and call their clients outside his court.

The result of the informal conference was an order entered late Friday enjoining Steiner and his wife, JoAnn, from transferring their property or equitable interest.

Steiner and Saline Township are fighting six suits brought by women who claim that Steiner groped and sexually harassed them when they came seeking public aid from Saline Township.

The allegations in the women's suits are virtually identical.

Plaintiffs Elizabeth Watkins, Melanie Hedlund, Ailie Ritchie, Laura Barry, Jamie Miener and Tara Reding each are seeking damages in excess of $50,000, punitive damages, attorney's fees and other relief.

All of the suits were filed this year and consolidated for hearing purposes.

Steiner and Saline Township deny the allegations in the claims.

Steiner resigned as Saline Township supervisor last year.

Saline Township recently filed a 173 motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' amended complaints.

No hearing date has been set on that motion to date.

The plaintiffs move to put Steiner's assets into a constructive trust, citing a transfer of nearly 100 acres Steiner made in February after the filing of the Watkins suit.

The motion was filed Aug. 23.

The plaintiffs contend that Steiner was attempting to hide assets and deny them from recovery.

Steiner countered that he had been set to undergo knee surgery that month. The defendant claimed in his response that he transferred the property to his wife in case there were complications with the surgery.

Ruth noted that the plaintiffs' motion for the trust did not include the proper provisions to stop the transfers or claims under the Fraudulent Property Transfers Act.

Ruth recommended that the attorneys work out an agreed order rather than going through with a full hearing that would likely lead to an amended motion and new filing.

Ruth told defense attorneys that either way he was inclined to grant the plaintiffs' request to halt any property transfers given Steiner's balking at financial discovery requests and his attitude at previous hearings.

The agreed order was entered later Friday afternoon.

The Watkins suit was the first filed in January of this year.

The Reding case is the most recent case filing.

Thomas and Peter Maag represent all of the plaintiffs.

Mark Weinheimer and others represent Steiner.

William Knapp, Lori Vanderlaan and others represent Saline Township.

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.

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