Cleveland's The Plain Dealer settled a libel suit by former U.S. Rep.

By: M.L. Stein Mary Rose Oakar (D-Ohio), but the newspaper says it stands by the April 1992 series that sparked the suit.
The series concerned an investigation into alleged abuses of the House post office by a congressional task force that Oakar sat on. In a joint statement announcing settlement of the suit, the newspaper says it couldn't substantiate accusations that Oakar was associated with "ghost employees" at the post office. The newspaper published the joint statement in its Feb. 12 edition.
The series was based primarily on confidential sources who claimed Oakar resigned under pressure because the investigation centered around the alleged patronage employees. Oakar sued, calling the accusations a "bald-faced, damnable lie." The confidential settlement includes an undisclosed payment to Oakar.
A congressional task force concluded in 1992 that there was no evidence of ghost employees associated with Oakar. In the joint statement, the Plain Dealer says in light of the finding, it recognizes that Ms. Oakar was "rightfully upset" about the allegations but that it printed them because it "believed the information was reliable."
"The Plain Dealer isn't retracting anything," says Lou Colombo, a Cleveland lawyer representing the newspaper. "We couldn't prove that there were in fact ghost employees."
The four sources turned out to be a Democratic congressman and a Republican congressman, as well as two Republican staff members. Oakar is a Democrat.
Given the deadline pressure and consistent information from sources of both political parties, Colombo says, the Plain Dealer acted reasonably in printing the allegations.
Oakar, an eight-term House member who left Congress after losing the 1992 election and is now a consultant and radio host, says her long fight with the newspaper points to the need for papers to hire ombudsmen, especially in one-newspaper towns.
Colombo responds that the newspaper, in fact, reported back in July 1992 on the task force's conclusion that there were no ghost employees.
?(Editor & Publisher Web Site: http:www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher February 27, 1999) [Caption]


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