Republican Madison County Recorder sued by former staffer claiming political retaliation

Christina Stueve Hodges Aug. 22, 2012, 7:30am



A former employee of the Madison County Recorder of Deeds Office is suing Recorder of Deeds Matt Rice, claiming he allegedly fired her for supporting his opponent in the November election.

Casey Hutson filed the lawsuit Aug. 20 in Madison County Circuit Court.

She is represented by Michael Gras of the Law Office of Christopher Cueto in Belleville.

"The stated reason for Plaintiff's termination is pretense," the suit says. "She was terminated by Defendant Rice in retaliation for being a Democrat and supporting Rice's opponent in the upcoming election."

Rice sent a statement by email: "Earlier this year, I cut the size of our office staff by two employees, due to necessary budget cuts to help make the county and our office more fiscally responsible. In making these cuts, I followed all county guidelines, union contracts and state laws. The management and employees of the Recorders Office work each and every day to provide the most professional working environment and courteous customer service in county government. I look forward to refuting any claims to the contrary."

According to the lawsuit, Hutson started working in the Recorder's office in 2009. She also is a member of the Democratic Party and is involved with Democratic fundraising and campaign efforts, the suit states.

In November 2010, Rice, a Republican, was elected as Madison County Recorder. In his position, Rice had management control over employees in his office, the suit states.

Rice is running as an incumbent Republican for the November 2012 election against his Democratic Amy Meyer, the suit states.

On or around the week of Jan. 9, 2012, Hutson posted a flyer for a fundraiser for Meyer on her personal Facebook page. In less than a week, Hutson was informed by Rice that she was being laid off due to budget reductions, the suit states.

She had worked at the Recorder's office for three years and three months, the suit says.

"Plaintiff Casey Hutson attempted to further the Public Policy of the State of Illinois, which encourages citizens and employees to be involved in the political process," the suit states.

"Plaintiff's choice of party affiliation and her support for candidates of her choosing are protected by law.

"In retaliation for the above-protected activities, Defendant Rice ultimately terminated the employment of the plaintiff."

According to the lawsuit, the defendant's termination of the plaintiff was oppressive and with malicious indifference to Illinois Public Policy and has caused the plaintiff great mental anguish, distress, tension and emotional pain. Plaintiff lost great sums of earnings as a result of her termination and has been damaged in her earning capacity. She is seeking an excess of $50,000.

Hutson is identified on her LinkedIn profile as a campaign staffer for Madison County Democrats and Marleen Suarez, (D-Collinsville) for Illinois State Representative

The case is assigned to Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge.

The case is Madison County Case Number 12-L-1319.

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