Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Breen Told Syndicate His U-T Job "Definitely Threatened" If He Went Ahead with Kelley Strip
In the summer of 2007, John Matthews, vice president of Universal Press Syndicate, received a call from Steve Breen, Union-Tribune editorial cartoonist. Breen said he felt his job at the Union-Tribune was "definitely threatened" if he went ahead with a comic strip he was planning to do with Steve Kelley, former U-T cartoonist, who had earlier departed the paper on bitter terms. In a declaration under oath, Matthews said that Breen "believed he would lose his job at the newspaper if he did not quit the project, because his editors did not want him working with Mr. Kelley." Matthews's testimony was put into evidence at a reconsideration hearing late this month before Superior Court Judge Jay Bloom, who had earlier thrown out Kelley's suit against the U-T for contract interference, among several things. Matthews stressed that Breen's fear of getting in trouble with the U-T was the only reason the cartoonist gave for backing out of the strip.
Bloom, however, said Matthews's new statement did not add "a triable issue of fact." Earlier, another official of the Universal syndicate had reported Breen saying, "My paper is essentially telling me they don't want me working with Steve Kelley," and that was the reason Breen was pulling out of the strip. Bloom initially said that statement was hearsay, but after the Universal executive put it in a deposition, the judge admitted it, but was not swayed.
"All the evidence shows there was one reason Breen withdrew in 2007 and that's because the newspaper made him withdraw," says Bob Gaglione, Kelley's lawyer. Gaglione showed the evidence to ten lawyers, all of whom said it was overwhelming. Bloom's dismissal of the case will be appealed, says Gaglione. Kelley's strip, "Dustin," now being done with another cartoonist, will be launched soon. The U-T is not expected to run it.