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Tish responds to new complaint

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

The attorney for St. Elmo's mayor contends that the second attempt by the community’s former police chief to sue the mayor for slander is no better than the first.
In a motion filed on Monday in Fayette County Circuit Court, Charles A. Pierce of Belleville, the attorney for Mayor Larry Tish, argues that Ken Thomason’s amended suit still lacks specificity.
Thomason, who served as St. Elmo’s police chief for about 16½ years before being terminated by Tish last November, filed a slander suit against the mayor in November.
At a hearing on June 23, Fayette County Resident Circuit Judge S. Gene Schwarm dismissed the suit, but gave Thomason the opportunity to file an amended complaint. Schwarm agreed with Pierce’s arguments that Thomason’s suit was not specific enough and failed to show actual malice.
In the motion he filed on Monday, Pierce said that Thomason “has not accepted the fact that the law requires that these claims be pled with ‘a heightened level of precision and particularity.’”
He contends that paragraphs of the suit “are not objectively verifiable and, therefore, do not rise to the level of defamation.
“Simply stated, the defects present in the original complaint have not been corrected,” Pierce’s motion states. “Further, attempts to replead would be futile. As this matter is postured, statements are ones of opinion and are privileged.”
Pierce contends that while Thomason alleges that Tish made statements about him to a citizen about a criminal investigation, “These are clearly within the scope of the mayoral duties and are therefore subject to an absolute privilege.
“It is crystal clear in Illinois that ‘an official of the executive branch of state or local government cannot be held liable for statements within the scope of his official duties,’” the motion to dismiss states.
“The spiteful nature of this lawsuit is becoming increasingly evident,” Pierce states in the motion.
“As noted in the original complaint, (Thomason) alleged that Tish was acting maliciously in retribution for an arrest Thomason had made on Tish. In true chameleon-like fashion, that allegation has now morphed into an allegation that Thomason’s co-worker arrested Tish.
“The plaintiff’s attempt to replead has been futile. (Thomason) has completely and uttlerly ignored the pleading standard applicable to this type of claim and cannot, despite any number of further attempts at mischaracterizing the facts, get around the fact that this was a mayor speaking in his official duties and, therefore, (Tish) is entitled to privilege,” the motion states.
A hearing on the motion to dismiss has been set for 10 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 27.
In addition to the slander suit filed in Fayette County Circuit Court, Thomason has filed suit against Tish in federal court.
Thomason alleges in that suit that Tish violated his “procedural and substantive due process rights” and that the mayor fired him after he (Thomason) reported “what he believed to be a violation of Tish’s obligation to enforce and uphold city ordinances.”
Thomason is represented by Alton attorney Lee Baron.