An attorney representing Madison County's former Community Development administrator Kristen Poshard says the county “proactively publicized” its retaliation when it considered releasing information that it previously wanted to protect.
In a Nov. 8 press release, county chairman Kurt Prenzler stated that he advocated the release of two outside investigation reports involving sexual harassment claims and management complaints due to the “public’s right to know.”
Poshard’s attorney, John M. Eccher of Eccher Law Group in St. Louis, responded by stating in an email that the press release further subjects Poshard to retaliation.
“I’m still shaking my head in utter disbelief at the County’s press release,” Eccher stated.
“Approximately one week after learning that Kristen had filed a Charge of Discrimination alleging sex discrimination and retaliation, the County decided that it now wants to release information that, for months prior to learning of such filing, it had fought to protect. In doing so, not only did the County demonstrate its continued retaliation against Kristen, but it decided to proactively publicize this retaliation. I’ve never seen an employer act so cavalier in retaliating against an employee for having filed a Charge of Discrimination."
In the county's press release, Prenzler indicated he would delay release of the reports to give any of the involved parties' attorneys an opportunity to raise objections. Following a five business day period given for review, Prenzler indicated that objections had been made and that the reports would not be forthcoming.
Eccher stated this week that he has not yet seen the reports.
“Having not yet reviewed the information that the County wanted to release, I suspect that the County decided not to release the information based on the objections of its own attorneys due to the additional liability that would have been created for the County. I know that if I were the County’s attorney, I certainly would have objected to my client doing so,” Eccher stated.
According to the county's Nov. 8 press release, Poshard met with Prenzler, county administrator Doug Hulme and compliance manager John Thompson on June 7, alleging she was being harassed by county board member Phil Chapman.
Prenzler, Hulme and Thompson met with Chapman that afternoon and discussed the allegations. Chapman agreed to avoid Poshard while an investigation was underway.
Working with assistant state’s attorneys, the administration retained former circuit judge James Hackett to complete the formal investigation.
Hackett submitted his report on June 25. He concluded, “There is insufficient evidence to conclude that Sexual Harassment, as outlined in county policies, has occurred.”
Poshard then provided a written grievance against Hulme on July 10. In general, her complaints involved his management style and practice. There were no allegations of sexual harassment.
The administration, again working with assistant state’s attorneys, retained attorney Kevin Babb to investigate this complaint.
Babb submitted a report on Sept. 18. He concluded, “Given the facts that I have gleaned during my investigation, I find no factual basis to support the allegations made in the grievance.”
County board members reviewed the Hackett report, the Babb report, emails between Poshard and Hulme and notes taken by Prenzler and Thompson following the meeting when the allegation was made.
After a review of the reports, consultation with assistant state’s attorneys and consideration of the issues, Poshard’s employment was terminated following the county board's unanimous 26-0 vote on Oct. 18.
Poshard had been appointed administrator of community development in March with an annual salary of $92,000.