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08/06/97 JOSEPH STRATMAN v. ROBERT BRENT

August 6, 1997

JOSEPH STRATMAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ROBERT BRENT, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 89--L--46. Honorable R. Peter Grometer, Judge, Presiding.

As Corrected August 13, 1997. Released for Publication September 12, 1997.

The Honorable Justice McLAREN delivered the opinion of the court. Inglis and Hutchinson, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mclaren

The Honorable Justice McLAREN delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff, Joseph Stratman, appeals the trial court's granting of the defendant's, Robert Brent's, motion on the pleadings, motion to dismiss, and summary judgment in this action for slander. The trial court granted the defendant's motion on the pleadings and motion to dismiss based on section 2-201 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Tort Immunity Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 85, par. 2-201 (now 745 ILCS 10/2-201 (West 1994))). The trial court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment on count II of the plaintiff's third amended complaint based on a release signed by the plaintiff. We reverse and remand.

The issues raised in this appeal concern the legal sufficiency of the plaintiff's third amended complaint and the defendant's motions directed against that complaint. The following facts are taken from the record. The plaintiff worked as a police officer for the City of Aurora from December 1977 to June 1985. During that period, the defendant was the police chief of the City of Aurora. In January and August 1987, the plaintiff applied for positions with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF), respectively. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted a background check of the plaintiff for the DEA, and the Department of the Treasury (DT) conducted a background check for the BATF Both the FBI and the DT interviewed the defendant regarding the plaintiff's employment with the City of Aurora.

Count I of the plaintiff's third amended complaint alleges that the defendant made the following statements about the plaintiff to the DT:

"a. That the plaintiff was involved in a fatal shooting on March 20, 1979 and subsequent to that shooting, the plaintiff declined any offers of counseling;

b. That the plaintiff was given the nickname [']Code Red['] which is the Aurora Police Department unofficial designation for mentally disturbed person;

c. That the plaintiff became a loner soon after the shooting and that the plaintiff became unpredictable and displayed an increasingly negative attitude, in fact a pervasive negative attitude;

d. That the plaintiff became incapable of handling stress and that the defendant was relieved when the plaintiff resigned;

e. That the defendant was keeping a close eye on the plaintiff prior to his resignation and monitoring him with the idea of finding just cause to fire him and was glad to see the plaintiff leave;

f. That the defendant would not rehire the plaintiff and if the plaintiff attempted to return to the Aurora Police Department, the defendant would go to any length to prevent his return and would subject the plaintiff to every psychological screening available;

g. That the defendant could have [a] department wide mutiny if the plaintiff returned;

h. The other officers would not work with the plaintiff;

i. That the defendant would not recommend the plaintiff for employment with the United States Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms."

Count II of the plaintiff's third amended complaint alleges that the defendant made the following statements about the plaintiff to the FBI:

"a. That the plaintiff had been involved in an incident wherein he shot a burglar and after the shooting, the plaintiff did not have, or ask for any counseling;

b. That before the plaintiff left the department and a considerable time after the shooting, the plaintiff began to act strangely;

c. That the plaintiff was nicknamed [']Code Red['] by his fellow officers and that [']Code Red['] is the Aurora Police Department ...


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