DeKalb’s police chief is suing a McHenry County resident for calling him names in emails addressed to other DeKalb city officials.
[DeKalb Police Chief] Gene Lowery filed suit in DeKalb County Court in January 2016, seeking damages from Thomas G. Salvi, for libel. Salvi, a doctor of internal medicine and a former Republican candidate for state representative who lives in Crystal Lake, sent emails in 2015 to then-Mayor John Rey and City Manager Anne Marie Gaura, in which he called Lowery “evil” and “a thug,” and urged them to fire him.
Chief Lowery worked in McHenry County before he came to DeKalb, and that’s where he and Dr. Salvi apparently locked horns.
This actually happened to me once. A person wrote to my supervisor to make outlandish accusations against me. The boss and I had a brief chat, and I returned to work. End of story.
Chief Lowery didn’t even have to have the chat.
This type of thin-skinned reaction is not at all what I like to see in a public official. You see, there’s something called SLAPP lawsuits. SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.” SLAPPs are attempts by public bodies — and possibly now by a singular public official — to repress criticism.
Illinois has an “anti-SLAPP” law called the Citizen Participation Act, which (in part) says this:
The threat of SLAPPs significantly chills and diminishes citizen participation in government, voluntary public service, and the exercise of these important constitutional rights. This abuse of the judicial process can and has been used as a means of intimidating, harassing, or punishing citizens and organizations for involving themselves in public affairs.
It is in the public interest and it is the purpose of this Act to strike a balance between the rights of persons to file lawsuits for injury and the constitutional rights of persons to petition, speak freely, associate freely, and otherwise participate in government; to protect and encourage public participation in government to the maximum extent permitted by law; to establish an efficient process for identification and adjudication of SLAPPs; and to provide for attorney’s fees and costs to prevailing movants.
According to the Office of the Circuit Clerk, the next court date is July 5, 2017, beginning 9am in the DeKalb County Courthouse. That’s the date we’ll hopefully find out what sort of injury Dr. Salvi has perpetrated upon Chief Lowery.
Until then, at least, it feels like a SLAPP to me.