Former Knox County prosecutors to receive $555,000 settlement in alleged harassment case

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There's a $550,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed by three former prosecutors in the Knox County, Illinois State's Attorneys office, all fired in 2007 after reporting allegations of sexual harrassment.

''We stood up as whistleblowers for the female secretaries that were sexually harrassed and rather than go to trial, the defendants chose to settle this case'', said Mike Kraycinovich, one of the former prosecutors who filed suit. The two other lawyers are Tracy Jones and Dean Stone.

States Attorney John Pepmeyer says he was prepared to ''vigorously contest'' the allegations and says he was prepared to go to trial over their civil suit, but says it was out of his hands.

''The insurance company dictated the settlement. They concluded as insurance companies and lawyers do, that settlement was far cheaper,'' Pepmeyer said Thursday in an interview with WQAD-TV.

''It was strictly the insurance company's decision to settle this matter, not one cent of county funds was involved in the settlement and I think that's important to know,'' he said.

Pepmeyer says the Illinois Attorney General's office investigated the allegations five years ago and ''completely exonerated me''.

The insurance company will pay out the half million dollar settlement, but officials say the county has had to spend more than 460-thousand dollars in legal and accounting fees since the case began.

Aside from this weeks settlement, monetary agreements were reached in 2010 with the three former female secretaries in the office who also filed suit against Pepmeyer and Knox County. The amount has not been disclosed.

Pepmeyer says it was all ''politically motivated'' by one of the former Assistant State's Attorneys who wanted his job.

''Political revenge for somebody not taking this side of my desk'', he said. Pepmeyer is up for re-election in November.

''The insurance company is the one that mdae the decision. I don't call it a victory from either side'', Pepmeyer said.

But the lawyers who lost their jobs say they feel vindicated by the settlement.

''Rather than have the facts of the case come to light and be aired in front of a jury, they would rather settle this case  for over half a million dollars''.

 "Given the amount of money that was paid to settle these cases, speaks to our credibility and character for raising these allegations to authorities of sexual harrassment'', said Kraycinovich, who is now an attorney with the government in Huntsville, Alabama.

''We did the honorable thing by reporting this and we did the honorable thing by filing these lawsuits. Now we can move on''.