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Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Defamation Claim Against City Inspector General Dismissed

A former city councilmember filed a defamation case against a city inspector general and other city defendants. The complaint alleged, among other things, that the inspector general defamed him when he authored and then transmitted a report to the mayor that accused him of committing the criminal offense of conspiracy. The complaint also alleged that the city's ordinances authorizing the mayor to appoint an inspector general violated state law. 

The inspector general filed a motion to dismiss the complaint arguing that his communications were privileged, that he had immunity under the Tort Immunity Act for his official actions in conducting the investigation and authoring the report, and that the complaint did not state a claim for defamation because it did not allege that he published the report to a third party. The trial court dismissed the complaint, finding that the Tort Immunity Act immunized the inspector general.

On appeal, the Appellate Court first held that the allegations challenging the legality of the city ordinances were insufficient to overcome the presumption of validity of a city's ordinances, so dismissal of that allegation was proper. As to the application of the Tort Immunity Act, the Appellate Court disagreed with the trial court that it applied to the inspector general in this case, finding that the inspector general was not covered by the cited sections of the Act because he was not an officer or an employee of the city but instead, an independent contractor. However, the Appellate Court upheld the dismissal of the case on other grounds, specifically that the inspector general had tendered the report to the mayor in the discharge of his official duties, and that action was covered by absolute privilege and immunity. McFarland v. O'Dekirk, et al.


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