Fired employee sues Judge Russell Steele
UPDATE: Judge Russell Steele's secretary returned KTVO's phone message on Wednesday morning and left a voicemail.
The secretary said the judge wanted to refer us to Joel Poole at the Missouri Attorney General's Office. We are told Poole is handling this case.
When we called the AG's office, we were told Poole wasn't available, but they would have someone give KTVO a call.
A spokesman did return our call a few minutes later, but he told us he can't comment on the case because it is pending litigation.
A former Adair County employee is suing a local judge, claiming he violated her civil rights when he fired her earlier this fall.
Former Deputy Circuit Clerk Susan Gall of Kirksville and her attorney filed suit in U.S. District Court in St. Louis on Monday against Circuit Judge Russell Steele of Kirksville.
In court documents, Gall claims Steele did not have the statutory or administrative power to remove her from her position as deputy circuit clerk.
She said that authority lies with her now-former direct supervisor, Adair County Circuit Clerk Linda Decker.
Gall's attorney, Bob Herman of St. Louis, made the following statement to KTVO Tuesday: "Months of conversations with the judge's representatives at the Attorney General's Office did not result in a remedy for my client, and she was forced to file suit."
"Judges have to follow the rules just like everyone else," Herman went on to say.
The court papers state that Gall is asking for her job back and is seeking all the wages and benefits she was denied, plus court costs and attorney fees.
Documents indicate that after Gall was terminated by Steele, she requested a pre-termination hearing as allowed by law.
That hearing was held in front of Circuit Clerk Linda Decker on August 28, 2013.
In a follow-up e-mail from Decker to Gall dated September 4, 2013, Decker told Gall, â??Due to the testimony presented, the witnesses interviewed and my own observations, you have complied with all assignments, never failed or refused to comply with a lawful order and your behavior was never in question of adversely affecting the operation of the court, or affected you ability to perform your duties.â??
Decker went on to write, â??As such, I find the termination reversed and the dismissal withdrawnâ?¦.According to Missouri Law â?? neither Judge Steele or his designee, Matt Holt, had the authority to terminate or designate your duties or assignments.â??
Steele then overrode Decker's decision.
In a September 5, 2013, letter to Gall, Steele wrote, â??Ms. Decker is not vested with the authority to order any of the above referenced actions and you will not be awarded any back pay or benefits and you should not report to work at any time unless so directed by me, the only person authorized to make appointments of personnel for Adair County Circuit Court.â??
KTVO attempted to get a comment from Steele.
A phone message left on the answering machine at the judgeâ??s office shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday was not returned as of the posting of this story.
Click here to see a portion of the court documents.