Saturday, February 24 , 2018, 10:02 am | Fair 53º


Local News

Former News-Press Editor Jerry Roberts Wins Arbitration Award

Court documents show owner/publisher Wendy McCaw has been ordered to $1 million in legal fees and arbitration costs

Santa Barbara County Superior Court documents show that Santa Barbara News-Press owner and publisher Wendy McCaw has been ordered to pay nearly $1 million in legal fees and arbitration costs to former editor Jerry Roberts.

The arbitration award, issued in October, was released into public record on Thursday, when McCaw’s attorneys filed a petition to vacate Friday.

McCaw, also the owner of Ampersand Publishing LLC, was ordered to pay $748,022 in Roberts’ legal fees against McCaw’s claims of defamation and breach of fiduciary duty. Another $167,516 was awarded to Roberts for arbitration costs.

Roberts, editor of the News-Press for four years, resigned from his editorial position in 2006, citing management interference with news coverage. Many of the newspaper’s employees followed.

Ampersand sued Roberts, alleging he had violated his contract, and Roberts filed a counterclaim for wrongful termination.

Ampersand fired back with an amended claim, announcing it would seek $25 million in damages.

According to an excerpt from the arbitrator’s final award, “Ampersand chose to deviate from its initial stated commitment to stay out of the newsroom and ‘leave the day-to-day management and editorial decisions of our paper to the professionals’ and is therefore solely responsible for the resulting ‘hit in credibility.’”

Barry Cappello, McCaw’s attorney, said in a statement sent to Noozhawk late Friday that the arbitrator in the case “violated the jurisdictional requirements to rule expeditiously.”

“The News-Press intends to take every step to reverse this miscarriage of justice, and we have begun the process of petitioning the courts to vacate the award,” the statement said. “It is a sad example of some of the abuses that can take place when parties are outside the actual court system. It is with the judiciary that we will now pursue our petition to seek redress and reversal of this arbitrator’s invalid ruling.”

Andrine Smith, Roberts’ attorney, said, “My client is thrilled with it and feels vindicated and very happy to get back a large measure of what he was forced to spend.”

Roberts wasn’t able to comment directly to reporters, but he said in a statement that he was deeply grateful for the support of those who stood by him throughout the process.

“Winning this long fight was possible only because I had such strong support from my family, from colleagues, from the community and from the news industry,” Roberts said in the statement. “The award is a decisive victory for ethical journalism.

“Ethics, not money, was always the issue for me. ... It’s a great feeling to close this chapter with a victory.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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