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Lake City Reporter Suspends Veteran Reporter:
The Charge - Inaccurate Reporting


Veteran reporter Tony Britt at work.
File photo.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – It has been reported to the Columbia County Observer that veteran reporter, Tony Britt of the Lake City Reporter (LCR), was suspended for three days for alleged "inaccurate reporting." The Britt controversy began with an article, Smith gets go–ahead to sue from EEOC, written by Mr. Britt and published in the April 29th Sunday edition of the LCR. The article revolved around the continuing story of the firing of police Capt Robert Smith by Lake City. The EEOC is the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In the April 29th article, Smith gets go–ahead to sue from the EEOC, the following quote from Captain Robert Smith appeared:

"I received my right to sue notice from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Friday (April 20) and I've forwarded it to my attorney and we will follow through with a federal lawsuit and we will let a jury of my peers decide whether or not I was right or wrong."

Captain Smith told the Observer, "I said that."

This is the only reference to the EEOC correspondence in Mr. Britt's article on April 29th.

The EEOC Notice: What did it say?

The EEOC notice is a form letter. There is a section in the form letter which is titled, "The EEOC Is Closing Its File on This Charge for the Following Reason." There are seven choices.

The fifth choice was checked off by the Commission. It states:

The EEOC issues the following determination: Based upon its investigation, the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes. This does not certify that the respondent is in compliance with the statutes. No finding is made as to any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this charge. (emphasis added)

Captain Robert Smith at his swearing in ceremony at City Hall.

The respondent is the City of Lake City.

The EEOC notice then goes on to state, in relevant part: You may file a lawsuit against the respondent(s) under federal law based on this charge in federal or state court. Your lawsuit must be filed within 90 days of your receipt of this notice; or your right to sue based on this charge will be lost. (emphasis added)

In a nutshell, the federal government gave Capt Smith the right to sue based on his charges filed against the City with the EEOC. He must do this within 90 days. The EEOC clearly made no determination on the truth or falsity of Capt. Smith's charges. If he chooses to sue in federal court, a jury will decide if the City violated Capt Smith's rights.

Tuesday's LCR follow-up article: What are the facts?


Lake City Reporter publisher Todd Wilson.
File photo.

Tuesday's LCR article had the byline of veteran reporter, Tony Britt.

The headline, which is usually determined by the editor and which was printed across the whole front of the paper and is prominently featured on the LCR web site reads, "EEOC dismisses LCPD ex-captain's claims." This is completely untrue. The letter states unequivocally that it did not come to a determination on Capt. Smith's claims.

The article goes on to state that the EEOC "also notified Smith that there were no findings of merit (regarding his case)..." and that his accusations were rejected. These statements are also completely untrue.

Out of left field, Mr. Britt purportedly wrote the following about his own reporting of a few days before:

The Lake City Reporter on Sunday inaccurately described the correspondence as simply a right–to-sue letter. The Dismissal and Notice of Rights summary does describe Smith’s legal right to file a claim in federal court within 90 days, but also notified Smith that there were no findings of merit and his EEOC complaint file was closed.

Did the Lake City Reporter management stick this in there to appease City Manager Johnson or someone else?

In the May 1st follow-up article, City Manager Wendell Johnson had his bite of the apple. He told the LCR that he "was pleased with the EEOC's lack of findings."

If the LCR management thought the City's response was missing from Mr. Britt's first article, why did it wait so long to get it?

Why Was Veteran Reporter Tony Britt Suspended? Who wrote the article?

Tony Britt would not speak with the Observer. However, he did speak with Captain Robert Smith.

Capt Smith reported that Tony Britt told him he was suspended for three days because the April 29th Smith article was inaccurate.

Capt. Smith said Mr. Britt told him that after the April 29th article was published he received a text message from City Manager Johnson.

Mr. Britt told Capt. Smith that when he had arrived at work on Monday, somebody had already contacted Todd Wilson (LCR publisher).

Capt Smith said, "Tony told me that he was accused of allowing me to have played him."


City Manager Wendell Johnson.

Capt Smith continued, "Tony said, ""I did not write the entire [May 1st]article. Both Todd and Robert worked on the article."" [Robert Bridges: LCR editor]

Tony Britt told Capt Smith, "I was suspended for three days."

City Manager Wendell Johnson via email told the Observer that he did not know Mr. Britt was suspended, nor had he spoken with Todd Wilson.

The Observer called and e mailed Publisher Todd Wilson and called Editor Robert Bridges. They did not respond.

Epilogue

Columbia County / Lake City, Florida. The legend continues.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On May 2, 2012, Trera from Lake City wrote:

Thank you for reporting the facts in the story of former Captain Smith. Your articles on this subject may appear biased to others, but it's inevitable when you report the truth. The truth can't help but paint a clear picture of who is clearly wrong. In this case, it is not Robert Smith.

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On May 2, 2012, Rudolph Davies of Lake City wrote:

This is why I will not subscribe to the Lake City Reporter.

 

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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Click image to go to EEOC notice