On April 27th, Joel Connable was dismissed from WTVJ with a sea of controversy and questions following soon behind him. After much persistence, I had the chance to speak with Mr. Connable and ask him some questions about what happened at WTVJ, and what he’s doing now.
The big news is a lawsuit has been filed against NBC. Gina Cadogan of Schnall and Cadogan is representing him in this case, currently filed in Florida state court. NBC claims Mr. Connable violated NBC policy by accepting a trip free of charge, in exchange for taping a story featuring the Ritz Carlton in St. Thomas. When we asked Connable about the allegations, he said this.
“I did not solicit favors from anybody… and I am truly hurt by the allegations” Connable said.
The lawsuit claims a producer at NBC6 suggested Connable and another NBC employee shoot a story for his travel segment, called “The Departure Lounge,” while they were on the trip. The lawsuit says Connable never agreed to shoot a story and they were all going on a personal trip and not taking any NBC equipment.
According to Connable, he first heard about the allegations from several NBC6 employees who said they were being discussed in the newsroom. That’s when Joel says he went to speak with his news director about the rumors and she explained how shooting a segment on one’s personal time could fall in a gray area.
“After meeting with my news director and listening to her advice, the trip was cancelled because we, obviously, wouldn’t want to do anything that didn’t follow NBC guidelines.”
The lawsuit claims Connable never requested anything for free. It goes on to say that when the public relations director sent Connable’s producer an email offering to cover the cost of flights and rooms, Connable replied that he could not accept anything for free.
Despite this, WTVJ management ultimately made the decision to let him go. Connable’s contract was terminated April 27th, 2009 and a lawsuit was filed soon after for breach of contract. NBC was served this Monday, June 8th. Apparently, there is a special clause in Mr. Connable’s contract that states the following:
“[…] Company may terminate this agreement in the event of artist (Joel Connable) breach of any material representation warranty term or condition of this agreement, provided however, that prior to any termination NBC will provide artist with written notice and give artist opportunity to cure breech, if such cure is timely and possible.“
According to the lawsuit, Connable was never given written notice, nor was he given an opportunity to cure his alleged breach.
Insiders close to the investigation tell SFLTV.com that NBC threatened Connable not to pursue the lawsuit, or “he would never work in broadcasting again.” That same anonymous source gives us this opinion:
“I think it was a shock to the NBC6 viewers. To suddenly take your main male anchor, who was promoted to a position formally held by a Miami news legend (Tony Segreto), and just make him vanish… is not only disrespectful to the viewers who care about who they’re watching, but I think it also cuts off more oxygen to a station that desperately needs to be revived.”
Another source at WTVJ, who insisted on remaining anonymous, says that Connable was due a substantial raise in August. Our source also claims NBC was locked into that contract until the latter part of 2010. It may be possible that NBC was looking for a way to eliminate a high paying contract during these tough economic times.
According to Connable’s attorney, NBC isn’t the only one being sued. A lawsuit has also been filed against NBC6 Executive Producer Tammy Delgado for defamation of character. She’s accused of making slanderous and libelous statements to her subordinates regarding Connable’s alleged wrongdoing.
There is no set amount that’s being sued for in the case, but Connable says
“All I want is for my contract to be honored.”
According to Connable, NBC still has the opportunity to settle the case, or it may go to a court ordered mediation. Both parties have 20 days to respond.
I asked Joel what he’s been doing with his free time, and what he’s planning on doing career wise.
“I have been overwhelmed by the support of my former coworkers and friends and the offers I have received. I have been spending a lot of time doing the things I didn’t have time to do when I was working the so-called 9-5 schedule.”
When asked if he wants to go back into local news:
“I love working in television. It’s all I have been doing for more than a decade in South Carolina, Los Angeles and Miami. I don’t know if there will be a job for me out there in this economy. Right now, I am just like millions of other Americans who are unemployed.”
Finally, I asked Mr. Connable what his bottom line message was.
“The bottom line is we never went on the trip and I always honored my contract with NBC. I still hold the network in the highest regard and wish them nothing but continued success.”
And on that note, our interview was over. We tried to contact NBC and received this statement from Barbara Alfonso, at WTVJ:
“The station disputes these claims, which are completely meritless. We are confident in the actions taken, yet due to the pending litigation we are unable to comment further.”
We also tried to contact Ms. Delgado, yet received no responce. Our thanks to Joel Connable.
Note:Full copies of the lawsuit will be available exclusively on SFLTV.com by the end of the week.