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Reinbold settles lawsuit

The woman who sued former North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Leo Reinbold settled a portion of the lawsuit claiming he sexually harassed her at the state Capitol.

The woman who sued former North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Leo Reinbold settled a portion of the lawsuit claiming he sexually harassed her at the state Capitol.

Jacqui Ferderer's suit against the state - also named as a defendant - will move forward, her attorney, Pat Monson of Fargo, said Thursday. Terms of her settlement with Reinbold are confidential.

Ferderer, a Securities Department administrative assistant who claimed Reinbold kissed her on the cheek and forcibly on the mouth during rides on a Capitol elevator, filed the suit Feb. 10 in Bismarck's federal court.

This week, a judge granted a motion to dismiss Reinbold as a defendant because the parties reached a settlement.

Reinbold's attorney, Irv Nodland of Bismarck, said he could only confirm the claim against Reinbold has been dismissed.

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"Beyond that, I can't talk about it," he said. He would not confirm there was a financial settlement.

Monson said she couldn't discuss details of the case, but said Ferderer was "very satisfied" with the resolution with Reinbold, now 72.

"She's happy to have that part of it over," Monson said.

Ferderer and Reinbold reached the settlement during a mediation hearing Dec. 1. The case against Reinbold was dismissed without prejudice, meaning none of the claims can be brought against him in the future.

However, Ferderer's suit against the state, which claims officials permitted a hostile work environment and failed to address his behavior for years, is scheduled for trial June 6 in Bismarck.

In 2003, Ferderer filed a sexual harassment complaint with the state. It prompted two internal investigations, including one specifically addressing Reinbold's behavior in the PSC office after its employees voiced other complaints.

An investigative report completed in June 2003 found that allegations of Reinbold kissing female employees, touching or grabbing them and making offensive sexual gestures, jokes and comments likely happened during his 20 years as a commissioner.

"The reports give you the tip of the iceberg. ... Nobody stopped him, and he did it for years," Monson said. "Everybody knew it."

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An earlier investigation by the North Dakota Highway Patrol into Ferderer's claims against Reinbold also concluded the harassment probably happened.

At the time, he denied all of the allegations.

On Thursday, Reinbold said he couldn't comment about the case or a settlement "on advice of my attorney."

He resigned his seat at the end of July 2003 after 22 years at the agency that regulates utilities, grain elevators, coal mining and reclamation of mined land.

Ferderer's lawsuit, which named Reinbold and the state as defendants, claims the state knew the "severe and pervasive nature" of Reinbold's harassment and failed to take corrective action.

"Defendant Reinbold's sexually harassing behavior was well known throughout the Capitol," the suit claims.

Monson said her client began taking medication for Multiple Sclerosis about three months after the first encounter with Reinbold in a Capitol elevator. Previously, Ferderer didn't have any symptoms of the disease, which affects the central nervous system.

In Reinbold's response to the lawsuit, he denied all the allegations.

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Assistant Attorney General Tag Anderson, representing the state in the lawsuit, didn't deny results from investigations stating Reinbold probably harassed Ferderer and other female Capitol employees. He also didn't deny others working in the Capitol knew about Reinbold's behavior.

However, the state said Reinbold wasn't acting in his "official capacity" when such behavior happened.

Anderson did not return a call seeking comment Thursday. Fellow Public Service Commissioners Wefald and Clark also declined to comment on the settlement.

Forum reporter Janell Cole contributed to this article

Readers can reach Forum reporter Steven P. Wagner at (701) 241-5542

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