Jerry Roberts Goes on Offensive

Roberts Claims News-Press Leaked Arbitration Info

Thursday, August 31, 2006
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Former News-Press editor Jerry Roberts has accused lawyers representing Wendy McCaw, the Santa Barbara News-Press, and its parent company Ampersand of leaking the fact that McCaw filed a $500,000 claim against Roberts that will be handled through arbitration, rather than the court system.

News of the $500,000 claim has long been rumored, but was first reported in a short article that appeared in last Friday’s Los Angeles Times. The article attributed the source of the information to the News-Press itself. Shortly thereafter, McCaw’s spokesperson Agnes Huff issued a release expressing disappointment that the story had been leaked and suggested that Roberts himself had been responsible for doing the leaking.

This past Monday, Roberts issued a demand for a retraction. In his letter, he denied yet again having any hand in leaking the story, noted the lack of any evidence that tied him to the leak, and then provided an elaborate account accusing McCaw attorney David Millstein of leaking the story to News-Press reporter Vladimir Kogan. As of this writing, Kogan declined to comment, and Huff has not responded to written queries.

But according to Roberts’ account, Kogan called him on the phone August 17, and left a message stating he’d been assigned to write an article about the arbitrated conflict. Because the conflict will be settled through arbitration rather than litigation, there are no documents publicly available at the Santa Barbara courthouse to which Kogan or any reporter would have had access. According to a press statement issued by Roberts’ attorneys, Kogan told Roberts during their phone conversation that he had obtained a copy of the arbitration from Millstein after he informed Millstein that one could not be found at the county courthouse.

In the past, Roberts had declined to discuss his arbitration dispute with McCaw, saying he did not want to screw up the process or risk further legal entanglements. His attorneys explained they went public with their version of events only after Huff and Millstein had failed to issue a retraction. The L.A. Times broke the story the same day Roberts and columnist Barney Brantingham—along with the rest of the News-Press employees who resigned over ethical conflicts with N-P owner and publisher McCaw—received an ethics award from the Society of Professional Journalists (SJP) at a their annual conference in Chicago. Both Brantingham and Roberts received standing ovations while at the SPJ conference. Roberts’ attorneys vowed that they would file a detailed a vigorous counter-claim against McCaw in response to the $500,000 complaint she filed against him.

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