A judge in Jefferson City has delayed action on a request from the State Agriculture Department to enforce a settlement with former Department employee Heather Elder, whose allegations of sexual harassment against then-Agriculture Director Fred Ferrell led to Ferrell’s dismissal.
Attorney Bruce Farmer, representing the Department, told the court an oral agreement was in place to pay Elder $70,000 plus her attorney’s fees and to give Elder a letter of recommendation in exchange for her resignation. The deal also had to be kept confidential. Farmer points out an oral argument is legally binding.
Attorney Carla Holste, representing Elder, insists the proposal discussed during negotiations was not the same as what was sent to her in writing. So, as far as she was concerned, there was no longer a "meeting of the minds" and all prior discussions were no longer in play. She adds any settlement requires agreement on all terms of an agreement. Holste says at the very least there was one essential term the parties never agreed on: What, if anything, would remain confidential.
Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce has delayed a request for summary judgment, saying she wants to hear more from attorneys in the coming weeks.
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