St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert LeChien on May 16 granted an embattled police chief’s motion to dismiss a slander suit involving the alleged “leaking” of police operations information.
LeChien also allowed the plaintiff, Caseyville police officer Scott Miller, 14 days to amend his complaint against J.D. Roth – the village’s police chief who is currently on administrative leave.
Roth was arrested May 8 on charges of official misconduct in his role as police chief. He also is the subject of an ongoing St. Clair County grand jury investigation.
Among other things, Roth is being investigated in connection with his alleged use of a vehicle seized as part of a drug investigation and that he used that vehicle – a 2003 Dodge Ram – for personal and police use. He allegedly put 65,000 miles on the vehicle and charged the village $6,000 in maintenance costs.
Miller claims in his suit filed April 1 that Roth made several defamatory and false statements about him in April 2012. Those statements allegedly included allegations of Miller being a “leak” of information about the operations of the police department to citizen Brad Van Hoose.
Roth, who is represented by Matthew P. Young of The Kuehn Law Firm in Belleville, wrote in the motion to dismiss that Miller had failed to allege “that any of the alleged statements were false, i.e., that he did not give information to Brad Van Hoose.”
“Further, plaintiff’s complaint is wholly devoid of any allegations as to whom these alleged statements were made to" and “wholly devoid of any allegations of actual damages incurred by plaintiff as a result of these alleged slanderous statements.”
While LeChien granted Roth’s motion on the same day as a hearing was held, he took under advisement a motion to dismiss filed by co-defendant, the Village of Caseyville.
Represented by Belleville attorney Alvin C. Paulson, the Village says it is immune from liability and should be dismissed.
A hearing on the Village’s motion to dismiss is set for June 24.
Miller is represented by John J. Hopkins of Belleville.
Miller seeks a judgment of more than $250,000 in damages, which include compensatory and punitive damages, plus costs of the lawsuit.
Citizen Van Hoose v. Caseyville
Van Hoose has been at odds with Roth, as well as the village’s former Mayor George Chance and other officials, over his requests for village expenditure records that began in September 2011.
Van Hoose filed multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the village for items such as copies of board meeting minutes, village hotel committee meeting minutes, contracts, invoices and records related to the village’s hotel fund. He had been seeking information on a dock project that he said was not properly bid.
Multiple FOIA requests were rejected by the village but later upheld by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Van Hoose told the Record last August that the Caseyville Police Department, at the behest of Roth, opened a bogus criminal investigation on him in November 2011 for allegedly threatening to kill the wife and daughter of a village trustee.
When asked about it last August Roth told the Record that a case against Van Hoose was under advisement at the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s office. State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly would not comment at the time.
Van Hoose said that in connection with Roth’s investigation, his personal student information that should have been protected by Southwest Illinois College (SWIC) was shared with Caseyville Police.
In April 2012, Van Hoose was arrested and handcuffed in the school library on two disorderly conduct charges by public safety officers at SWIC, charges that were later dropped.
The conduct deemed disorderly by SWIC stemmed from Van Hoose sharing with personnel at SWIC’s public safety office, a news article and an eight page letter written April 3, 2012, by Caseyville police officers listing 40 allegations of misconduct on the part Chief Roth.
Van Hoose said he has on numerous occasions taken information to the State’s Attorney’s office as well as the Illinois State Police alleging misconduct on the part of Roth toward him.
He has said he has been frustrated at times at what seemed like a lack of prosecutorial interest.
Preceding Roth’s placement on administrative leave, State’s Attorney Kelly wrote in a March 8 letter to Caseyville’s former Mayor Chance that “over the past nine months many concerns have been raised about the actions and conduct of Mr. Roth during his tenure as chief.”
Attempts to reach Roth for comment have been made.
St. Clair County Circuit Court Case No. 13-L-168