By: Joe Strupp
A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at The Oregonian in Portland has reportedly been suspended and ordered to undergo ethics training after he received free parking at a lot owned by a former story subject, according to the alternative Willamette Week.
The alternative paper reported that Tom Hallman, who won a 2001 Pulitzer for feature writing and had been a finalist twice before, was suspended for two weeks without pay, was moved off the paper’s enterprise team, and will have to undergo ethics training.
The punishment is apparently for Hallman’s decision to park his car at the headquarters of Fog Cutter Capital, a local company whose CEO, Andy Wiederhorn, was the subject of a Hallman profile and a 1999 series about the man’s financial collapse, Willamette Week reported. Wiederhorn was later convicted in 2004 of several charges stemming from an alleged pension-fraud deal.
“According to sources and an email sent Monday by Oregonian Editor Sandra Mims Rowe to staff, Hallman faces multiple punishments,” Willamette Week reported. “The reporter has been suspended two weeks without pay, his senior reporter’s salary (estimated by one newsroom insider to be $90,000, or about $12,000 more than top scale for an average reporter) is frozen, and he will be moved from the paper’s plum-assignment enterprise team to a less prestigious, still-to-be-determined beat.
“Hallman was also told that he can’t represent the paper in public forums for the foreseeable future and must undergo ethics training with managing editor Therese Bottomly,” Willamette Week added. “And Hallman must repay Wiederhorn $500 for use of the parking space, even though Wiederhorn doesn’t charge for spaces in the lot.”
Rowe and Executive Editor Peter Bhatia could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. A search of the Oregonian Web site found no news about the suspension.
“As most of you have heard, we took a series of disciplinary steps last week involving Tom Hallman. Tom had accepted an offer from Andy Wiederhorn last year to park in the lot at his Goose Hollow offices,” Rowe wrote in the e-mail. “Tom did so over a period of months. Tom has acknowledged that accepting this offer was a serious ethical breach, given Wiederhorn’s controversial past, the fact he continues to be in the news and because Tom did a series on Wiederhorn eight years ago. At the time, it didn’t occur to him this would be a problem, as he no longer reports on Wiederhorn or had any plans to do so in the future. Tom acknowledges his failure in judgment, is extremely contrite, has apologized repeatedly and deeply regrets any impact this may have on the paper.”