A motion by Department of Corrections Director Gary W. DeLand to set aside a $95,000 settlement agreement in a sexual harassment lawsuit against him and others was denied Thursday.
U.S. District Judge David Sam ruled from the bench that there was no reason to set aside the award to former corrections secretary Linda Susan Dreitzler. He also refused to augment the settlement with restrictions on what lawyers may or may not say to the press.At the start of the 15-minute hearing before Sam, DeLand's lawyer, Gordon Strachan, said his client was prepared to withdraw his motion to set aside the settlement because the other defendants - the state and former corrections official Scott McAlister - were satisfied with the deal.
However, Strachan said DeLand wanted it made clear that the claims against him had been dismissed "upon the merits . . . ," contrary to the public comments of Dreitzler's lawyer, Kathryn Collard.
Strachan said DeLand had felt compelled to try to set aside the settlement and seek a full hearing on Dreitzler's allegations because he had no other way to correct the misinformation about his role in the dispute.
In the motion filed last week, DeLand said one of the conditions of the settlement was that lawyers would release to the press only information specifically relating to the settlement stipulation and only after the claims against DeLand had been dismissed.
The claims against him were dropped by Dreitzler five days before she released McAlister and the state from further liability in exchange for the $95,000. Strachan said Collard misrepresented those facts to the Salt Lake Tribune and thereby violated the terms of the agreement.
Attorney Stephen Russell, who represented Collard at the hearing, said, "No such agreement (regarding comments to the press) was ever made or even contemplated. It is pure fantasy."
He also argued that terms of a settlement agreement must be in writing and signed by the court. The signed stipulation does not mention public comments.
Russell and Collard asked Sam to award them about $2,000 in court costs and fees incurred in fighting DeLand's motion. Sam said he was not prepared to rule on that request.
Dreitzler's lawsuit accused McAlister, the former inspector general for corrections, of giving her pornographic films in an attempt to engage her in group sex. The suit also said her continued employment was made dependent on her participation in a "corporation" to buy a house with McAlister and another woman for a "three-way sexual relationship."
She said DeLand knew or should have known about McAlister's actions and put a stop to them. The $95,000 settlement has already been paid out of the state's Risk Management Fund.