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Madison County state’s attorney prevails in discrimination case

EDWARDSVILLE – Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons is claiming victory in a federal civil trial prompted by a former employee of the States Attorney’s Office who was fired by Gibbons for what he said was performance issues related to her work.

The case first gained public attention in October 2012 when former Assistant State’s Attorney Theresa Hagans, who was employed in the Child Support Division from April 1997 to July 2011, claimed employment discrimination after she was terminated.

At the time, Gibbons issued a statement strongly denying the claims in Hagans’ lawsuit and expressed his opinion that the plaintiff’s lawyer, Lee Barron of Alton, was using the pending 2012 election in an attempt to get the State’s Attorney’s Office to settle the case, Gibbons’ office said today.

“As a public servant, I owe it to citizens to make sure that their State’s Attorney’s Office is the very best it can be,” said Gibbons, in a statement released today. “That’s what I did in this case, and it is reassuring to know that baseless attacks on the office will not prevail.” At the time of the filing, Gibbons noted that he wouldn’t bow to any political pressure to settle the case.

“The employee was previously warned and corrected for, in our judgment, failing to perform the required duties of her position. Her termination was based solely on the fact that she failed to meet the performance standards of the office.”

Barron said Gibbons’ contention that he was trying to embarass Gibbons by seeking a settlement prior to the election is “patently untrue.”

“That’s his way to deflect the facts of the filing,” Barron said. “There was nothing political to it. Like every case, we explore the possibility of a settlement. The truth is, Mr. Gibbons is a Democrat, I’m a Democrat. I didn’t wish to cause him any discomfort.”

The jury trial began in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois, in East St. Louis on Monday in front of Senior Judge J. Phil Gilbert. After deliberating approximately 75 minutes, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Madison County on Wednesday.

“I would like to thank the jury for their service in taking time out of their lives to see justice done in this case,” said Gibbons. “Taxpayers pay our salaries and they deserve the very best. That is what I will always strive to deliver.”

Madison County was represented by attorneys John L. Gilbert and Raven J. Akram, both with Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard P.C.

Barron said it’s important to note that the judge allowed the case to go to jury rather than set it aside.

“He did not see it as baseless,” Barron said.

 Barron believes his client lost the case because of Gibbons’ argument that the plaintiff could not prove that she had been terminated illegally.

“An unjust, unfair and unwise” firing did not equate to an illegal one in the eyes of the jury, Barron said.

Three attorneys and three judges were among those testifying that Hagans was “an excellent atorney,” Barron said.

He said no decision has been made as to an appeal.




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