By: M.L. Stein
A Las Vegas Sun reporter has been fired two weeks after she sued the county sheriff, claiming he urged her bosses to remove her from the police beat because of her unfavorable coverage.
Managing editor Michael Kelley said Cathy Scott was terminated on the grounds of “abandonment” after she failed to report for work last week at the end of a 90-day medical leave. Scott, who said she needed the leave because of job stress, retorted, “He told me he fired me because I was a biased reporter.” She charged that the Sun “never backed (her) up” in her investigations of Sheriff Jerry Keller, whom she accused in a federal suit of violating her free-speech rights, disrupting her employment, causing her medical disability and damaging her reputation.
Scott, a Sun investigative reporter for five years, said in her suit that Keller and other cops complained so often about her reporting that Kelley pulled her off the beat last May and gave her 60-days probation, she charged. “There is not a shred of truth to her claim, not one iota,” Kelley said. He said she was transferred for “very good cause” unconnected to the police. “I have never met or spoken to Sheriff Keller in my entire life,” he said. “This is her fantasy.”
Scott’s suit alleges that the paper killed two of her stories as a result of a meeting with Sun execs in which Keller accused her of attacking his character by writing “innuendos, rumors and emotions.” Last February, according to the suit, Scott broke a story reporting that the president of the Police Protective Association referred to Martin Luther King Day as “Martin Luther Coon Day” in a speech to cadets ? and the next day an officer warned that if she backed off the story, the department “will turn down the heat on you at the paper.”
Keller’s lawyer, Walter Cannon, said the sheriff denies that he did anything to cause her to lose her job or that any member of the police department did anything wrong.
Sun chairman and former Nevada Gov. Mike O’Callaghan acknowledged meeting with the sheriff, but denied any role in Scott’s removal.
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?(copyright: Editor & Publisher October 3, 1998) [Caption]