Sinclair, fired worker settle

Suits are ended over his ouster

December 16, 2006|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,Sun reporter

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., the Hunt Valley television station owner, and its former Washington bureau chief have decided to end a two-year legal battle over his dismissal during the 2004 presidential election campaign.

Sinclair fired Jonathan S. Leiberman in October 2004 after he publicly criticized Sinclair's decision to pre-empt normal programming at 40 of the company's stations to air what he called "an extremely one-sided and negative" documentary about Democratic nominee John Kerry.

Sinclair later sued Leiberman, saying he divulged confidential information about the company in an interview with The Sun, during which the bureau chief called the documentary "biased political propaganda."

In a countersuit, filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court, Leiberman said the TV company's decision to fire him was "retaliation, pure and simple, for his public stand that Sinclair's plans were inconsistent with journalistic ethics."

Leiberman, now a correspondent at America's Most Wanted, said he had been wrongfully discharged and sought $79,166, the amount he would have earned had he served out his two-year contract, plus an unspecified amount in unpaid benefits. Sinclair sought $17,000, representing a percentage of Lieberman's salary had he worked until his contract expired.

Both sides dropped their suits this week. Under the terms of the settlement, no one involved in the case may speak publicly about it.

Sinclair had prevailed in an earlier case before the Maryland Department of Labor, which found that Leiberman had violated provisions of his contract that prohibited speaking to the press without permission about internal company matters.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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