Employees of former St. Clair County clerk settle harassment claims for $665K

News-DemocratMay 12, 2014 

St. Clair County Clerk Bob Delaney in a BND file photo taken the day he announced his resignation.

TIM VIZER — tvizer@bnd.com

Five St. Clair County employees won a combined $665,000 settlement to ensure they would not sue the county for alleged harassment by former St. Clair County Clerk Bob Delaney.

The settlements, paid by the county, were made public Monday through the intervention of the Illinois Attorney General's office.

Delaney, 55, previously denied allegations from employees of sexual harassment, racial discrimination and other mistreatment. He resigned from his post in June 2013. He did not immediately return a call Monday seeking comment.

No civil lawsuit or criminal charges have ever been filed in connection with the allegations against Delaney, according to a search of federal and circuit court records. However, the employees did file accusations of discrimination against the county and Delaney with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

The employees' attorney, Tom Kennedy III, said he could not speak in detail about the case out of respect for a confidential agreement with the county, but noted he was pleased with the settlements.

County officials did not release the names of the employees who received settlements. St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern could not immediately be reached for comment.

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly, the county's legal adviser, said the county had concerns about the privacy of the women who made the complaints but will not appeal the Attorney General's opinion releasing the monetary settlement information to the public.

"We don't want to discourage individuals with real complaints from coming forward in the future because they fear for their privacy and fear being revictimized," Kelly said. "That's why we will withhold their names."

The settlements stipulate the employees will drop all legal action against St. Clair County and Delaney. The county admits no wrongdoing in the agreements, which were reached in December.

The settlements stem from allegations of violating civil rights along with assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The individual employees received settlements of $200,000, $150,000 and $135,000, and two employees received $90,000 apiece.

The News-Democrat requested the settlement information Dec. 30 through the state's Freedom of Information Act, but county officials denied the request, stating the release of the information would break confidentiality agreements between the employees and St. Clair County. The News-Democrat believes the settlement agreements are public information and requested that Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office review the denial.

On Friday, Madigan concluded the county improperly denied the newspaper's request and directed county officials to immediately disclose the settlement agreements. Madigan issued a binding opinion in the matter, which can only be appealed through a lawsuit in circuit court and may serve as precedent for similar cases in the state.

Delaney's resignation followed an investigation headed by the county's Equal Employment Opportunity officer, attorney Laura K. Beasley. Beasley interviewed 18 employees and concluded Delaney violated federal guidelines for employment.

Some of the alleged violations included:

* 13 female workers claimed Delaney kissed them and 11 female workers claimed inappropriate conduct, such as hugging and touching their hips.

* seven workers claimed Delaney grabbed their buttocks at work.

* six employees claim Delaney used racial slurs.

* five employees said they were paid less because of their race and gender.

* four employees claimed Delaney made inappropriate sexual comments toward workers.

* four employees stated Delaney drank alcohol while working.

* Delaney mistreated an employee with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and another worker with impaired hearing.

Delaney began serving as clerk in 1999. He worked his way up to the post after being hired as a field crew supervisor in 1979 and then became the office manager within the clerk's office in 1994.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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