Susan Luzzaro 5:30 p.m., Dec. 7
Ex-Gay Community Publisher Portantino Takes Own Life
A battle in the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender media ended tragically last night when Michael Portantino, owner of the now-defunct Gay and Lesbian Times, committed suicide by jumping off the Park Manor Suites. His death was confirmed to me by someone very close to him. Portantino was under investigation by the district attorney, who was supposedly looking into the possible bloating of circulation figures, among other things. I have from an excellent source that Portantino had been told through his lawyer that the D.A. would be indicting him. I put into a call to the D.A.'s office, and as this is written, have not heard back. I will report the office's response if I get one.
On May 11, San Diego News Network, which is also now defunct, printed a hit piece on Portantino and his company. That was followed by another, charging that Portantino was in financial trouble and bloating circulation figures. The first story was printed in conjunction with Gay & Lesbian News, a gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender publication that competed with Portantino's Gay & Lesbian Times. Gay & Lesbian News was a "media partner" of San Diego News Network at the time. Shortly, D.A. investigators began interviewing Portantino's employees at their homes, and also, allegedly, talked with the publication's advertisers. The stories had financial details of Portantino's operations. His bank said it would never have given out such information to the media, and it would have had to be subpoenaed by government investigators -- a long process. Portantino sued one of his ex-employees for allegedly giving out the financial information. The suit charged breach of confidential agreement and invasion of privacy.
In August, the Franchise Tax Board suspended the rights and privileges of the parent of Gay & Lesbian Times. Portantino claimed that he had straightened out the matter and had an arrangement with the Internal Revenue Service to pay back taxes. Eventually, the publication stopped coming out and Portantino was hospitalized.