The Santa Barbara News-Press continued spiraling into its seemingly endless cycle of legal and journalistic disputes this week, as it dropped charges against former Business Editor Michael Todd but brought up some new ones against the Santa Barbara Independent.
The News-Press filed legal papers on Wednesday to withdraw a petition against Todd, three months after attempting to pursue a “workplace violence injunction” against him. Meanwhile, the newspaper unveiled a potential lawsuit against the Independent yesterday, claiming that the weekly publication obtained two copyrighted articles, one of which was published.
According to a press release from the News-Press, the charges against the Independent, filed in a complaint with the U.S. District Court, include copyright infringement, unfair business competition, misappropriation of trade secrets and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage and contract.
Nick Welsh, executive editor of the Independent, said he had posted an article in early July on the publication’s website, written by former News-Press staff writer Scott Hadley, about the controversial resignation of Jerry Roberts, the former News-Press executive editor.
Welsh said Hadley was still a News-Press employee at the time the article had been written, making it News-Press property. Welsh said the Independent’s attorneys told him to take it off the website, which he did.
“They’re factually inaccurate: We only had one article posted on our website and we took it down,” Welsh said.
Welsh said the News-Press’s complaint will drain a lot of the weekly publication’s time and money.
“It’s them floundering,” Welsh said. “They’ve got nowhere to go and they’re striking at people.”
According to the News-Press press release, the newspaper’s owner will seek “unspecified actual and punitive damages, injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees.”
Welsh said the News-Press is paranoid and digging itself deeper into its own mess.
“They have some conspiracy theory that we’re out there to steal their business,” Welsh said.
Concerning Todd, the News-Press had filed charges against him in July, saying he had violently threatened a co-worker.
Todd had made what he said was a harmless joke to another employee. He said she found it offensive and complained to management, which suspended him seven weeks after the incident. Todd, however, claims he was suspended in retaliation for an e-mail he sent criticizing a policy he saw as unethical and against journalistic standards.
The policy, created after actor Rob Lowe complained about his address being published, forbade reporters from printing personal addresses without the express consent of the property’s owner.
The News-Press dropped the charges because the employee, photographer Ana Fuentes, no longer worked at the newspaper.
“Since Ms. Fuentes is not currently employed at the paper, pursuit of a workplace violence injunction prohibiting future wrongful conduct against Ms. Fuentes at the work site, would serve no purpose and the petition is being dismissed,” the press release stated.