Mandell Menkes won dismissal of a defamation, invasion of privacy and emotional distress complaint that Frank Gardner filed against the Fox 32 Chicago television station and it’s investigative reporter, Dane Placko. Gardner is a former attorney and Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. Gardner’s wife and son both ran as candidates for seats on the Water Reclamation District board. In reporting on their campaign, Fox 32 noted that Gardner’s wife and son downplayed their family connection seemingly to improve their chances of both winning seats on the Board. The report also noted that Gardner collected two pensions associated with his former Board employment totaling $158,000.
In his complaint, Gardner did not dispute that he was collecting $158,000 in annual county pension money. However, he claimed that the Station falsely reported that he received “two pensions totaling $158,000 a year” when, in fact, he received two payments from the same pension. He alleged that the report was defamatory because the report statement implied he was “double-dipping.” The Court granted the Defendants’ motion to dismiss all counts of Gardner’s complaint, with prejudice, finding that accusations of “double-dipping” were reasonably capable of an innocent construction.