Plaintiffs in a series of Madison County sexual misconduct suits against Saline Township and its former Supervisor Alvin Steiner reject defense "tort immunity" arguments by invoking the name of ousted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

"[A]s this Court can take judicial notice of, the immediate past governor of this state, Rod Blagojevich, was recently impeached and removed from office in connection with corruption allegations," wrote attorney Thomas Maag on behalf of five women suing the township and Steiner.

Plaintiffs Elizabeth Watkins, Melanie Hedlund, Jamie Miener, Laura Barry, Ailie Ritchie and Tara Reding claim Steiner made sexual advances and touched them in unwanted sexual ways when they came seeking public aid.

"Certainly Alvin P. Steiner, a minor politician from a small township does not have more power to [remain] employed in his political office than the governor of this state," Maag wrote on July 2.

The defendants have moved to dismiss various parts of the individual suits, claiming to be immune from the litigation under the Illinois Governmental Tort Immunity Act. Saline Township claims that it could not fire Steiner because he was an elected official and that it had no control over his alleged actions.

But, the plaintiffs continue to assert that Steiner was employed by the township and that as his employer, Saline Township is vicariously liable for his alleged actions.

Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth is set to hear a series of pleas to dismiss at a hearing at 10 a.m. on Friday.

Previous hearings had been pushed off due to scheduling and other issues.

The suits filed by Watkins, Hedlund, Miener, Barry and Ritchie have been consolidated for hearing purposes.

Reding's suit has not been joined with the other five suits, although it is likely to be.

The suits all seek at least $50,000 per count, punitive damages, costs and other relief.

The defendants deny the allegations.

Thomas and Peter Maag represent the plaintiffs in all six cases.

William Knapp, Jeff O'Kelley and others represents Saline Township.

Steiner is represented by Mark Weinheimer.

Watkins' suit was the first filed this year. Reding's is the most recent.

The cases are Madison case numbers 10-L-145, 10-L-178, 10-L-219, 10-L309, 10-L-310 and 10-L-555.

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