Mike Eliason, prize-winning, veteran photographer for the Santa Barbara News-Press, has been fired, apparently after he complained to Cal/OSHA about alleged newsroom mold issues.
No one is commenting for the record, but according to reports circulating in the community, Eliason filed a complaint with the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health about a potentially hazardous situation. In turn, the paper supposedly accused Eliason of giving away photo prints, a traditional but limited practice among newspaper photographers as a public relations measure.
Eliason also works as a photographer for the County Fire Department in his role as Public Education Officer for the department.
Eliason was a member of the newsroom union’s marathon effort to hammer out a contract, which might have put him in a bull’s-eye situation. A number of alleged federal labor relations law violations, including firing a group of reporters, were dismissed by a Washington, D.C., appeals court, but new charges against the newspaper will be before a National Labor Relations Board hearing here scheduled for May 12.
Eliason’s Santa Barbara attorneys, David Nye and Jon Miller, declined comment. Don Katich, News-Press director of news operations, stated in an email: “Mr. Elaison was terminated for violation of NP policy consisting of giving away NP photographs and publishing NP photographs on his outside commercial website. Mr. Eliason was sent a cease and desist letter at the same time of his termination asking that he remove the NP photos from his website, which he has since done. When he suspected he was about to be terminated he wrote a letter complaining about ‘mold’, which was an issue he raised last year and then dropped after the NP cleaned vents in the Newsroom as he had requested.”