Brian Wilson sues WOCT

June 04, 1996|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Brian Wilson is not going to go quietly.

The legendarily acerbic DJ, who for much of the 1980s was one-half of the hugely popular "Brian and O'Brien Show," has filed suit against the station that fired him last November after only three months on the job.

Wilson was fired from his morning show on WOCT-FM after weeks of heated complaints from people living in Dundalk, who often found their community on the receiving end of his barbed comments. Letters, community rallies and pressure put on local advertisers left no doubt that people in the southeastern Baltimore County community were not amused by the antics and few tears were shed when he was yanked off the air.

The suit, filed Wednesday in Harford County, claims WOCT-FM (104.3) and its parent company, Raleigh, N.C.-based Capital Broadcasting Co. Inc., violated their contract with Wilson when they fired him. It asks for $90,000, the unpaid balance of Wilson's one-year, $150,000 contract.

A copy of that contract, filed along with the court papers, lists a number of violations that could render the contract void and allow WOCT to fire Wilson "in our discretion." It also promises, however, that such discretion "will not be unreasonably exercised."

That last phrase is key, as the suit claims Wilson was fired without just cause. While admitting station management had suggested some changes in his on-air persona, it insists he was never ordered to change what he was doing, and has never been told specifically why he was fired.

According to court papers, Wilson was notified by fax, on the day he returned from a vacation trip, that he no longer had a job at WOCT, which broadcasts over the same frequency once used by B-104 and bills itself as "The Colt."

A copy of the fax, signed by WOCT Vice President and General Manager Ardie Gregory, was also included in court papers. Avoiding specifics, it accuses Wilson of violating provisions in his contract, including a promise that he "act at all times with due regard to public morals and convention."

Wilson, who could not be reached for the comment, complained at the time of his firing that he was only doing what WOCT hired him to do -- duplicate the radio presence that helped make B-104 the dominant Baltimore station of the 1980s.

Officials of WOCT and Capital Broadcasting did not return phone calls.

Pub Date: 6/04/96

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