Attorneys for Ampersand Publishing, the company wholly owned by Wendy McCaw which, in turn, owns the Santa Barbara News-Press, filed papers in Santa Barbara Superior Court today in which it was revealed that an arbitrator has ordered Ampersand to pay $900,000 in legal fees and other costs to former News-Press editor Jerry Roberts.
Ampersand is trying to get the arbitrator's award set aside. Roberts had successfully defended Ampersand's claims against him for defamation and breach of fiduciary duty.
Roberts has called the award, "A decisive victory for ethical journalism."
In the award, arbitrator Deborah Rothman rejected all of Ampersand’s claims against Roberts, finding that Ampersand’s true objective in the arbitration was to punish Roberts in "retaliation for speaking out about ethics at the paper." The Arbitrator thus determined that "Roberts is the prevailing party" in the dispute. She ordered Ampersand to pay Roberts for attorney’s fees and related costs totaling $748,022, though she dismissed his counter-claims. She also ruled that "the fees and expenses of the arbitrator, totaling $167,516, shall be borne entirely by Ampersand."
Although that is a huge sum of money, Roberts has said that it's, "Ethics, not money, (that) was always the issue for me."
While Ampersand will be seeking to get the award overturned, Robert's attorney Andrine Smith will seek to have the award confirmed, finalized and put into the form of an enforceable judgment.
I'll have more details in the days to come.
© 2010 by Craig Smith and www.craigsmithsblog.com