Jeff Smith 12:15 p.m., April 24
Memory -- er, uh -- Lapses at the Union-Tribune
The Union-Tribune should be giving memory classes to its employees. Maybe an honesty class would help, too, but I don't want to pre-judge a case now going on in Superior Court. Background: Steve Kelley, former U-T editorial cartoonist, had once agreed to do a comic strip with the current editorial cartoonist, Steve Breen. But on the 2007 day on which Breen went to lunch with Karin Winner, editor, he called Kelley and backed out of the deal, according to Kelley's lawyer, Bob Gaglione. Kelley, whose earlier departure from the U-T had been a bitter one, sued the newspaper for interference with a contract, among other things.
On June 25 of this year, Breen gave a deposition. He stated under oath that he had told Bill Osborne, one of Winner's top lieutenants, twice about the arrangement with Kelley. And he stated, under oath, that one conference with Osborne had led, he thought, to a lunch with Winner.
Then, lo and behold, attorney Rebecca S. Roberts of Sheppard Mullin, the U-T's firm, wrote to Gaglione on August 5, a bit more than a month later, that Breen "does not recall telling Bill Osborne" about the contract. Then, on Oct. 2, Breen signed a statement, under penalty of perjury, that he did not recall informing Osborne about the contract at any time before he bailed out. Further, he did not recall informing Winner of the contract before he terminated it. Hmmmm.
Some other matters are relevant. A month after he had terminated the deal with Kelley, Breen wrote an email to John Glynn of the comic strip syndicate and stated, "I'm afraid I've got some bad news on my involvement with the strip. My paper is essentially telling me they don't want me working with Steve Kelley." Then, Glynn sent an email to a colleague within the syndicate, saying, "Steve Breen was given a nicely worded ultimatum by the San Diego Union-Tribune NOT to do the...strip with Steve Kelley." Superior Court Judge Jay M. Bloom initially ruled that these emails were hearsay and not admissible, but Glynn has since given a deposition in which he corroborates the essence of what Breen told him in the email -- that the U-T didn't want him working with Kelley. As the chorus master said when warming up his singers, "Hmmmm."
I sent an email to Breen asking if he has engaged in introspection over his purportedly faulty memory. I also asked him if anybody at the U-T or at Sheppard Mullin encouraged or coerced him to recant testimony made under oath. He would not comment. I also asked Osborne whether in fact he had talked with Breen, as Breen originally testified, and whether he has an explanation for Breen's supposed memory lapse. Osborne isn't talking. I asked Winner about what was said at that lunch, and whether Breen had spoken with Osborne before the termination. No talkee. Steve Kelley isn't talking, either.