$$$ for Fired Reporter: A Santa Barbara Superior Court ruling today, April 8, cleared the way for illegally fired News-Press reporter Dawn Hobbs to seek an estimated $200,000 or more in unpaid overtime, penalties, interest, and attorney fees.
Judge James Brown rejected a News-Press contention that Hobbs, a former police and courts reporter, was an exempt employee not entitled to overtime. Judge Brown, however, denied Hobbs’s motion for summary judgment on her overtime, pending a trial on the issue of what she is owed. Hobbs’s Santa Barbara attorney, Garry Tetalman, says a June 17 trial is scheduled on the suit. At issue is how much uncompensated overtime is claimed, along with lunch and rest breaks not taken due to the pressure of news coverage but not compensated for. Hobbs declined to comment, but it is believed that she could be in line for a six-figure damages check.
Hobbs, known for putting in long hours actively pursuing stories dealing with law enforcement and the courts, was fired by the newspaper’s owner, Wendy McCaw, following a union demonstration on a freeway overpass. A National Labor Relations Board administrative judge ruled in 2007 that she and other reporters were illegally fired for the action. McCaw’s appeal is pending before the NLRB board in Washington.
Complicating matters for the newspaper’s defense is that there are apparently few accurate records relating to Hobbs’s overtime.
Life for Wine Cask? Rumors are flying around town that the much-loved Wine Cask restaurant, wine store, and Intermezzo wine bar could be reopening in a month or so. The word is that former owner Doug Margerum and local restaurateur Mitchell Sjerven would be involved. Sjerven, who owns bouchon and Seagrass restaurants, declined to comment.
The Wine Cask closed February 17 with an eviction notice. Then-owner Bernard Rosenson, who bought the thriving place from Margerum in June 2007, blamed the economy, in part. Others blamed his management. At a meeting between Rosenson and Anda Ashkar, a representative of landlord SIMA, Rosenson “alternately laid blame on Margerum and the ‘frugal unsophisticated nature of Santa Barbarians’ for the downfall,” Ashkar told The Independent in a February 27 story. At one point, Ashkar asked why the filet mignon enchiladas - one of the more affordable items on the pricey Wine Cask menu - had been removed, and Rosenson told her to “go eat at a Mexican place on Milpas Street,” the story said.
Ironically, the enchilada dish evolved years ago after the kitchen crew created it from leftovers. It became a dining room favorite. Added Ashkar, regarding Rosenson, “Never once did I hear him take or accept any responsibility for any of the famed restaurant’s demise.” The place never recovered after he cut down an old eucalyptus tree in the courtyard, alienating local preservationists. They saw it as an out-of-towner uncaringly flouting Santa Barbara traditions.
Earlier, SIMA chairman Jim Knell “did vent his disappointment with how Bernie [Rosenson] had chosen to run the restaurant and how it was a travesty that the famed restaurant had to close due to in large part Bernie’s operational choices,” Ashkar said. “We made it crystal clear that if Bernie were to show good faith in bringing his rent current, then the landlord would engage in discussions to determine a rent structure appropriate to the situation. No such good faith payments were ever tendered by Bernie.”
Rosenson also bought the long-shuttered Big Yellow House in Summerland, but now has it on the market.
Flick to Film Here: I’m told that Universal Pictures will be shooting scenes from an unnamed Nancy Meyers movie April 15 and 16 in downtown Santa Barbara. The film stars Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin. (“What, they couldn’t get any big stars?” a local cracked.) Locations will include the Courthouse, De la Guerra Plaza, and El Paseo Restaurant. Also worth noting: the film’s producers requested multiple copies of The Santa Barbara Independent to be shown on-screen in the scenes that are set here.
He’s a Fox: Herb Fox, Santa Barbara attorney and appeals specialist, has joined ex-News-Press editor Jerry Roberts‘s legal team. News-Press owner Wendy McCaw is appealing Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge James Brown’s ruling in favor of Roberts, who came out ahead in McCaw’s $25 million breach of contract arbitration action against him. McCaw is trying to fire the arbitrator who found that McCaw should pay Roberts’s legal fees, but did not assess any damages against either party.
Take a Book to Lunch: The Santa Barbara Central Library plans a clearance sale to reduce its inventory of donated books offered for sale, starting this Saturday and running through April 19. A large inventory of paperback and hardcover books of all genres and other media are being prepared for the blowout sale, coinciding with National Library Week. Paperbacks will cost 50 cents, hardcovers $1.50, DVDs and VHS $1, and music CDs 50 cents.
Obama Coffee: After Blue Booth introduced Obama Blend coffee at his Northside Santa Barbara Vices & Spices java joint it became his top seller. The mix of Kenyan, Indonesian, and Hawaiian beans, reflecting the president’s background, is also generating out-of-town orders. “I just sold 20 pounds to the San Francisco public defenders’ office,” Blue said. “The lawyers think it’s pretty good.”
Black Car Fear: When I was in Arizona recently, I was told that California had banned black cars. Why? Because they require more A/C energy to cool than white vehicles. “I heard it on the radio,” a woman assured me. But that doesn’t make it so, especially when you’re listening to overheated talk radio. But many people were anxious to believe the latest rumor about what’s next in wacky California. But never mind; there’s no such ban. Black is still beautiful, reportedly the No. 1 color choice by car buyers.
Barney Brantingham can be reached at email@example.com or (805) 965-5205. He writes online columns and a print column on Thursdays.