final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower
Tribunal No. 15-4002 Antonio Arzola, Judge.
J. Tobin, P.A., and Howard Brodsky, for appellant.
Johnson, Anselmo, Murdoch, Burke, Piper & Hochman, P.A.,
and Michael R. Piper (Fort Lauderdale), for appellee.
EMAS, C.J., and SALTER and GORDO, JJ.
the former Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of
Sweetwater, appeals the trial court's grant of summary
judgment in favor of Jose M. Diaz, the former Mayor of
Sweetwater. Quintero sued Diaz alleging defamation per se
based on a termination letter written while acting in his
official capacity. We affirm the trial court's ruling as
we conclude the alleged defamatory statements were protected
by the doctrine of absolute immunity.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
was the Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of
Sweetwater during the time that Diaz was the City's
Mayor. On June 2, 2014, Diaz-acting in his official capacity
as City Mayor-terminated Quintero. The termination letter
stated, among other things, that Quintero had exhibited
"poor judgment" and had been "incompetent,
negligent and inefficient in the performance of [his]
duties." The letter was included as part of
Quintero's personnel file with the City, which is a
on the contents of the termination letter, Quintero sued Diaz
for defamation per se. Quintero alleged that the statements
were false, and that Diaz was aware of their falsity at the
time he authored the letter. Quintero also claimed that the
statements were made in bad faith, with malice and with
reckless disregard for the truth.
and Quintero filed competing motions for summary
judgment.Quintero argued that Diaz was not entitled
to absolute immunity because section 768.28(9)(a), Florida
Statutes (2014), had abrogated the common law immunity
afforded to public officials in defamation per se claims.
Diaz claimed that he was entitled to absolute immunity and
that section 768.28(9)(a) was inapplicable in this case. The
trial court granted Diaz's motion and denied
Quintero's, finding that Diaz was entitled to absolute
immunity because he was acting in his official capacity and
section 768.29(9)(a) did not abrogate the common law
privilege. This appeal followed.
question of whether allegedly defamatory statements are
absolutely privileged is one of law to be decided by the
court and consequently is ripe for determination on motion
for summary judgment." Stephens v. Geoghegan,
702 So.2d 517, 522 (Fla. 2d DCA 1997) (internal citation
omitted). We review a trial court's ruling on a motion
for summary judgment de novo. Volusia Cty. v. Aberdeen at
Ormond Beach, L.P., 760 So.2d 126, 130 (Fla. 2000).
issue presented in this appeal is whether section
768.29(9)(a) abrogates the absolute immunity provided by
common law to public officials who make statements within the
scope of their duties when those statements are alleged to be
false, malicious, or badly ...