County settles with former employee

Monroe County Assessor Carl Wuertz

A former employee of the Monroe County Assessor’s Office who filed a federal lawsuit last year alleging retaliatory termination has settled out of court for nearly $100,000.

The Monroe County Board of Commissioners approved the settlement during its regular Monday meeting without offering further public comment. The county was named a co-defendant along with Monroe County Assessor Carl Wuertz in the suit filed by Kristin Egbert.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Republic-Times, the terms of the settlement were made public this week. The county is to pay Egbert and her attorney a total of $93,000. This includes $10,000 as back pay and another $52,000 in miscellaneous income, plus $31,000 to her attorney.

This settlement amount doesn’t include legal fees and other expenses incurred on the county’s behalf as part of dealing with the lawsuit.

Egbert, who had worked in the assessor’s office for several years until her firing last fall, alleged retaliatory termination and a violation of her First Amendment right to free speech. In her lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois at East. St. Louis, Egbert claimed that Wuertz openly distributed campaign materials last summer to staff members in his office to promote his re-election.

Wuertz, a Republican, successfully ran against Democratic challenger Barrie Scott last November for another term in office.

Egbert alleged that Wuertz had placed a hidden camera in his office to monitor operations and “as part of a scheme to manufacture a reason” for her termination.

Shortly after this camera was installed, the filing alleges, Wuertz either pretended to work on campaign materials while at work or in fact did prepare a political speech in the office when he knew or should have known doing so would be in violation of state and federal laws, the filing alleged.

Egbert, “in an effort to report and preserve evidence of Wuertz’s illegal activity,” per the filing, made a photocopy of this supposed speech. Wuertz used this photocopy as justification for Egbert’s firing, claiming she had been snooping around on his desk.

“Wuertz intended and expected (Egbert) to report and ‘whistleblow’ his illegal activity,” the lawsuit states.
Wuertz, 51, has served as assessor for the past nine years and has worked in the county assessor’s office for 14 years.

As per the settlement, the federal lawsuit has been dismissed and both parties “desire to amicably resolve all issues and claims arising” from litigation.

“Neither the payment thereof, nor the settlement of the lawsuit, is to be taken or construed as an admission of guilt or liability on the part of the defendant, or responsibility for alleged wrongdoing of any kind,” the settlement states.

The parties agree that to settle is in the best interest of all involved, as the continued pursuit or defense of this lawsuit would be “costly, disruptive and time-consuming.”

To read the full federal court legal filing, click here.

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