Madison County Board fires Kristen Poshard in October
A former Madison County employee has filed a federal lawsuit against the county alleging that she was fired after complaining about a board member’s alleged sexual harassment.
Kristen Poshard, who was hired as chief deputy administrator in December 2016 before being promoted to administrator of the Community Development Department in March 2017, filed the suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court of Southern Illinois, court records indicate.
In her complaint, Poshard states that beginning in May 2017, board member Philip Chapman, of Highland, “repeatedly made sexually (sic) comments to me despite my clear communication that his sexually harassing attention was unwelcome.”
Reached Thursday, Chapman said he had no comment on any pending litigation.
Poshard and her lawyer, Ferne P. Wolf of Sowers and Wolf law firm, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Poshard states that she complained about the sexual harassment to County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler in June 2017 after complaints to her immediate supervisor, Doug Hulme, were ignored. She also states Hulme actually ordered her to participate in a golf tournament with Chapman and accept further unwelcome behavior “for the team.”
Hulme could not be reached for comment Thursday.
In the 21-page lawsuit, which names Madison County, Chapman, Prenzler and Hulme, Poshard goes into detail about the alleged sexual harassment, including multiple inappropriate text messages and a meeting she said Chapman requested, where he told her he felt “tingly” and “excited” to hug her, according to the lawsuit.
In July 2017, Poshard was placed on paid administrative leave, the lawsuit states. Poshard learned she’d been terminated in October 2017 from reports made by media outlets.
In a news release, Prenzler said Poshard refused to return to work, and that’s why the County Board unanimously voted to remove her from her position.
In the release, Prenzler wrote that he’d asked Chapman to resign from the board, but that Chapman, who is elected by the people, had refused. Both are Republicans.
“Sexual harassment has no place in my administration and I take every complaint of sexual harassment very seriously,” Prenzler said in the release.
Poshard previously filed two complaints against the county, including one with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging she was the victim of sexual harassment and that she was retaliated against for reporting it. In two of those investigations, the evidence was “insufficient,” Prenzler told the BND at the time.
In addition to the sexual harassment, Poshard also alleges in the federal lawsuit she was paid less than her male predecessor, Frank Miles. It states Miles was paid $103,000 annually while Poshard was paid $92,000.
Kristin Poshard is the daughter of former U.S. Rep. Glenn Poshard, a Democrat who represented Southern Illinois for five terms.