Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 99 CH 8126 Honorable Dorothy Kirie Kinnaird, Judge Presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Barth
Plaintiff Ruben King appeals from the circuit court's dismissal of his two-count complaint against the City of Chicago (City), Richard C. Stevens, the Chicago Housing Authority police department (CHAPD), and Donnie Hixon. *fn1
The following is contained in the complaint. King was hired by CHAPD on May 16, 1996. An incident involving King and several other CHAPD officers occurred on January 1, 1998, wherein it was alleged that King was present when several CHAPD officers fired their weapons into the air and he failed to report the conduct to his superiors. A complaint was filed and an investigation conducted regarding the incident. Hixon, a member of the internal affairs division of the CHAPD, was in charge of the investigation.
On September 12, 1998, King was laid off from the CHAPD for financial and organizational reasons. As of September 12, 1998, King had not received any formal discipline for his involvement in the January 1, 1998, incident.
King was contacted by the Chicago police department (CPD) in October 1998, regarding his application for employment with the CPD. CPD investigator Stephen Scott's subsequent background interview with King included discussion of the CHAPD investigation. King told Scott he had not been disciplined nor had he received any formal notice of suspension or termination from the CHAPD as a result of the incident.
On November 13, 1998, King was notified by the CPD to report for training as a police recruit. The notification letter stated King had "completed the pre-hiring screening process." King became a CPD probationary officer on November 30, 1998.
Sometime after November 13, 1998, Hixon contacted Scott and Scott's supervisor at the CPD. King alleges Hixon made the following statements at that time: (1) King had been suspended from the CHAPD due to the January 1, 1998, shooting incident; (2) that "whoever had done the background check at Chicago had really fucked up"; and (3) King should not be a police officer. The CPD terminated King on December 11, 1998.
In his two-count complaint, King alleged the CHAPD and Hixon had defamed him and that the City and Stevens improperly terminated him. King sought monetary damages from the CHAPD and Hixon and either reinstatement to the police training academy or an investigation from the City and Stevens. The trial court dismissed count I (against the CHAPD and Hixon) on September 17, 1999, and count II (against the City and Stevens) on October 12, 1999, pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 1998)). King timely filed his notice of appeal from both orders.
On appeal, King contends the trial court erred in ruling that the CHAPD and Hixon were immune from liability under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Tort Immunity Act) (745 ILCS 10/1-101 et seq. (West 2000)) and the Employment Record Disclosure Act (Disclosure Act) (745 ILCS 46/10 (West 2000)). King also contends the trial court erred when it found Hixon's statements were qualifiedly privileged. As to the City and Stevens, King contends their dismissal was erroneous because King was entitled, under a CPD general order, to an investigation prior to termination.
King alleged in count I that the CHAPD, through its agent Hixon, defamed him when Hixon told CPD investigator Stephen Scott that (1) King had been suspended by the CHAPD because of a shooting incident; (2) "whoever had done the background check at Chicago had really fucked up"; and (3) King should not be a police officer. The trial court's order dismissed count I pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code. 735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 1998).
A motion for involuntary dismissal pursuant to section 2-619 should be granted only when there are no material facts in dispute and the moving party is entitled to dismissal as a matter of law. Rochon v. Rodriguez, 293 Ill. App. 3d 952, 958 (1997). A section 2-619 motion admits as true the well-pleaded facts and the legal sufficiency of the complaint. MBL (USA) Corp. v. Diekman, 137 Ill. App. 3d 238, 241 (1985). Section 2-619 allows a defendant to seek involuntary dismissal of an action because it is barred by affirmative matter that defeats the claim. MBL, 137 Ill. App. 3d at 241-42. A section 2-619 movant may provide an affidavit in support of the motion if the grounds for the dismissal do not appear on the motion's face. 735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 1998). A section 2-619 affidavit may not present facts that challenge the allegations of the complaint. MBL, 137 Ill. App. 3d at 242-43. A reviewing court is not bound to accept the reasons given by the trial court for its judgment and the judgment may be sustained upon any ground warranted, regardless of whether it was relied on by the trial court and regardless ...