Ex-employee sues Monticello official over defamation

MONTICELLO — A former city of Monticello employee has filed a defamation lawsuit against City Superintendent Floyd Allsop for what he says were comments made to the Environmental Protection Agency in the midst of debate over the city's demolition of a home in 2011.

Brett Thompson also names Monticello resident Kevin Osborne, alleging Osborne damaged his reputation through Facebook comments, in the suit filed April 9 by Monticello lawyer David Cox.

Thompson served as a former building and zoning administrator and later as engineering coordinator for the city, before being terminated at the end of June 2011. The termination included an agreement that provided six months of severance pay for Thompson totaling about $26,500. Neither Thompson nor the city will say why he was fired.

A copy of the termination agreement between the city and Thompson is here.

Dispute over the home at East Washington and Buchanan streets revolved around whether it should have been inspected for asbestos before being torn down by city workers. The city has alleged no Illinois EPA permits were needed since federal dollars were not involved, and that no evidence of asbestos was found.

The EPA did not issue any violations, but the Illinois Department of Labor issued three in 2013, saying employees should have been trained on spotting asbestos prior to the demolition, and that a trained person should have been on site for inspections throughout the job. It's unclear how the two agencies became involved.

The defamation lawsuit filed on April 9 claims an EPA official said Allsop suggested in a June 30, 2011 phone conversation that Thompson was attempting to build a case against the city for personal gain.

The suit against Osborne references January Facebook posts accusing Thompson of using a personal email account to conduct city business in order to "hide the activity from both his supervisors and the public."

The four-count lawsuit includes claims of defamation and "false light" against both Allsop and Osborne. Thompson is asking for a trial by jury and damages of $15,000 for each count.

The Monticello City Council discussed the court case in closed session this past Monday. Allsop said aldermen "reviewed and discussed it," but that city officials "will not be commenting at this time."

Thompson also declined to comment.

Allsop and Osborne have 30 days to file their responses in Piatt County Court.

Steve Hoffman is editor of the Piatt County Journal-Republican. For more, visit journal-republican.com.

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