Saline Township moves to continue July hearing

Amelia Flood Jun. 23, 2011, 9:52am

Saline Township is asking Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth to move a July 15 hearing on a move that, if granted, would effectively end its role in a series of sexual harassment suits.

Saline Township was named as a defendant in six sexual harassment and battery suits filed last year by women claiming that former Saline Township Supervisor Alvin Steiner groped and made inappropriate advances to them when they came seeking public aid from the township.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages in excess of $50,000 per count, punitive damages and other relief.

The township and Steiner deny the claims.

Ruth is currently set to hear arguments on a June 10 motion filed by Saline Township that seeks the final dismissal of the counts pending against the township and an appealable order July 15 at 9 a.m.

Saline Township filed a motion June 22 asking Ruth to move that hearing.

According to the motion, Saline Township's attorney Lori Vanderlaan will not be available for the hearing due to a scheduled trial.

The motion notes that the other parties have agreed to move the hearing to July 22.

Saline Township won the dismissal of the counts against it twice previously.

The latest dismissal came in January of this year.

The plaintiffs in the suits, Elizabeth Watkins, Jamie Miener, Melanie Hedlund, Ailie Ritchie, Laura Barry, and Tara Reding, filed their response to the move for the final dismissal earlier this month.

In that filing, the plaintiffs note that the court does not need to enter a final appealable order in the case.

The plaintiffs cite mediation that they plan to enter with Steiner to resolve the claims in the case and ask Ruth not to 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 plaintiffs' 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."

Thomas and Peter Maag represent the plaintiffs.

Mark Weinheimer represents Steiner.

The cases are currently set for trial in October.

The Saline Township suits 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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