Saline Township moves for final dismissal of sexual harassment suits; plaintiffs respond

Amelia Flood Jun. 13, 2011, 9:28am

Saline Township is moving to dismiss six sexual misconduct suits filed last year by women claiming former Township Supervisor Alvin Steiner harassed and groped them when they sought public aid from the township.

Saline Township filed its latest dismissal move June 10 and also seeks an appealable final order in the case.

It asks Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth to dismiss all of the counts directed against it by plaintiffs Melanie Hedlund, Tara Reding, Ailie Ritchie, Elizabeth Watkins, Jamie Miener, and Laura Barry.

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs have responded to the dismissal move, asking the judge to deny an appealable order Saline Township seeks in light of on-going mediation between the parties.

The women sued Saline Township and Steiner for damages in excess of $50,000 per count, punitive damages and other relief.

The women claim that Steiner, who was Saline's Township supervisor until 2009, sexually harassed, threatened and groped them when they came seeking utility and other public aid from the township.

Ruth already sided with Saline Township and dismissed multiple counts of the six suits
finding that because Steiner was an elected official, the township did not have control over him and that his actions were not its responsibility.

In the new motion to dismiss, Saline Township points to the prior dismissals of September 2010 and January of this year.

It argues certain counts that had been dismissed without prejudice now are barred because the plaintiffs have not amended their complaints within the statutory limits and have indicated in a May 9 scheduling motion that they will not amend the suits further.

The township asks for a final dismissal of any remaining counts against it.

The plaintiffs responded to the motion to dismiss the same day it was filed.

They argue that the court does not need to act on Saline Township's latest dismissal move.

"In their latest motion, defendant Saline Township requests this court to do two things, one of which it has already done," the response reads. "This court entered dismissal orders with prejudice on all counts against Saline Township. Thus, there is no need for this court to take any action for half of what defendant Saline Township wants."

The response then turns to the township's request for an appealable order related to the dismissals.

The plaintiffs cite October trial dates in the cases and argue that such an order would complicate the cases.

The plaintiffs also note their efforts to end the six cases.

"Counsel for defendant Steiner and plaintiffs' counsel are attempting mediation in this matter in an effort to seek a resolution even sooner," the responses reads. "The whole point being, plaintiffs want to end this case, and defendant Steiner is already having difficulty paying legal fees and has informally mentioned attempting to lift the injunction as to his assets . . . Adding an appeal would place more of a strain on these plaintiffs' recovery if the injunction were lifted."

The plaintiffs go on to ask for Ruth to not grant the order the township seeks.

"At a minimum, defendant Saline Township should be able to wait until Mr. Steiner mediates this matter, and even then, plaintiffs do not anticipate calling a single person affiliated with Saline Township at the October trial, with the exception of Mr. Steiner – who is now no longer a township employee," the response concludes. "Plaintiffs are puzzled by what financial burden or reason Saline Township wants an appealable order, as none of its people will be participating in the October trial . . . In all likelihood, more resources were expended by Saline Township in preparing their motion than would have otherwise been incurred through a final dismissal of the entire case in the interim."

Peter and Thomas Maag represent the plaintiffs.

Mark Weinheimer represents Steiner.

Lori Vanderlaan and others represent Saline Township.

Madison County Associate Judge Thomas Chapman is named as mediator in the plaintiffs' response.

The cases are Madison case numbers 10-L-031, 10-L-145, 10-L-178, 10-L-219, 10-L-309, and 10-L-555.

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