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Settlement soon?

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St. Charles County Elections Director Rich Chrismer

Attorneys are negotiating a possible settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit against St. Charles County Elections Director Rich Chrismer and a former female employee.

Chrismer confirmed the talks but said Feb. 25 that he had not seen any settlement agreement of the suit seeking more than $5 million in damages that named him and the county as defendants. He also continues to deny allegations made in the suit by Mary Railean Benefield, the employee.

I’m innocent of everything,” Chrismer said. “I did not do anything these people say.”

Chrismer would not discuss further issues involving the agreement including its amount.

The settlement agreement also involves Benefield’s husband, Christopher Benefield, who along with three employees alleged that Chrismer gave them substandard job evaluations and Benefield and other plaintiffs.

Settlements with Catherine Fry, who is Mary Benefield’s sister, and Mary Widaman – the other two plaintiffs – were reached last year. Two other plaintiffs in the case also settled last year.

Seven plaintiffs joined a sexual harassment suit in July 2012, which was originally filed in October 2011 Mary Railean Benefield, a county employee for 22 years.

Benefield, of Old Monroe, claimed in the suit that Chrismer created a sexually hostile work environment, stalked and groped her and that he flirted with other females in the Election Authority office in St. Peters.

Meanwhile, a jury trail on the suit in Scotland County in northeast Missouri was canceled. The case was assigned to that court by the Missouri Supreme Court after a local judge was recused.

Christopher Benefield is the only plaintiff who still works in Chrismer’s office. His wife now is employed by the county prosecutor’s office. Chrismer, a former Republican state representative, was re-elected in November to a fourth four-year term.

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