"So we had some hard visits there for awhile, and I thought that had gone away, but I...then I found Karin Winner and an H-R (Human Resources) lady walked in very solemnly one afternoon and said, 'We're giving you 30 days' notice.' And I said, 'What's this about?' And Karin said, "It's time to cut the chain." And I said, "OK, what's 'the chain'?
"I didn't know whether she was talking about the Copley chain or my tenure, or what.
"She said, 'It's time to cut the chain.' That's all I was ever told about why I was fired."
Charles Patrick is chief operating officer of Copley Press and serves on its board of directors. Numerous sources within the U-T newsroom say that Patrick, a former certified public accountant, has assumed new prominence at the San Diego paper. "It would be hard for me to know which of the things I write have irritated the most people, or even in this particular case, Chuck Patrick," said Morgan, according to the transcript. "We have somewhat different outlooks on life."
Several U-T sources say that Patrick's apparent change of status has coincided with reports that Helen Copley's son and heir-apparent, David Copley, suffered a heart attack in mid-January and has undergone at least one major surgical procedure at a local hospital. Helen Copley is said to be in ill health, and neither she nor her son, who holds the title of U-T publisher, have been seen around the newspaper offices of late, though some highly-placed editorial employees are telling their colleagues that David's condition has been improving.
Those editorial sources claim that the Union-Tribune "will never be sold" even if both of the Copleys should die but instead would be donated to a nonprofit institution for operation in perpetuity. They point to the model of the St. Petersburg Times, owned by the Poynter Foundation, which in 1978 was willed a controlling interest in the paper by Nelson Poynter, its late owner and publisher. Poynter announced his plans to bequeath his stock to the foundation more than a year before his death. The Copleys have given no public indication of their own succession plans.
Contacted this week by phone at Copley's La Jolla headquarters, Charles Patrick's secretary said he was on vacation and unavailable for comment. She referred questions to Harold Fuson, another Copley executive, who did not respond to messages left with his secretary.
After word of David Copley's heart condition found its way to one non-U-T reporter, according to U-T sources, Copley executives were not amused. Thus, U-T sources say that on Thursday, the day after Morgan's departure, a statement purportedly issued by the ex-columnist was posted on at least one of the newsroom employee bulletin boards. It reportedly was later removed.
"One speculation has come back to me that I was fired because I leaked information to the Reader," the statement said. "Please join me in putting down that yarn. I have never in those 54 years leaked information about the Copleys or any other person or part of this newspaper to the Reader or to any other competitor. As a newsman, I am not of that generous a temperament.
"I have never leaked or passed information of any kind about David Copley or Helen Copley to anyone anywhere who was not in a senior management position within the Copley organization and who did not have, in my view, a corporate need to know."