Down East 2013 ©
Discrimination litigation: The case of Larry Grard , the veteran reporter fired from the Morning Sentinel in Waterville last November, has taken on a new dimension. According to a story in the April 6 Bangor Daily News , Grard is no longer pursuing a grievance through his union, the Portland Newspaper Guild, that claimed his dismissal violated provisions in the Guild contract with MaineToday Media, which owns the Sentinel. The Bangor paper reports that union president Tom Bell said the Guild had negotiated what it considered an acceptable settlement, but Grard didn’t agree to it. Instead, he’s pursuing a lawsuit claiming his firing was the result of religious discrimination.
Grard, who describes himself as a Christian, lost his job over an e-mail he sent, while on company time and using a company computer, to a national gay rights group in Washington. He was responding to a press release from the organization blaming the defeat of a same-sex marriage law in Maine on hatred against gays. Grard accused the group of expressing hatred for supporters of traditional marriage. An official at the organization who received the e-mail complained to the Sentinel, and Grard was fired.
Grard later described the e-mail as “a lapse in judgment,” and said he expected to be disciplined, possibly with a suspension, but never thought he’d lose his job. Union leaders said the Guild contract called for “progressive” discipline, meaning employees faced lesser penalties for first offenses and greater ones for subsequent violations. Grard said he had had no other disciplinary problems during his eighteen years at the paper.
Grard is now getting assistance from the Catholic League , a New York-based group dedicated to religious rights, and the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission , a California organization that’s trying to convince Sentinel advertisers in the Waterville area to boycott the paper. He’s being represented by a New York law firm in complaints filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Maine Human Rights Commission, either of which could lead to a lawsuit.
Grard did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Definite article: The newspaper formerly known as the Portland Press Herald is now The Portland Press Herald .
The extra three-letter word showed up on the paper’s Web site a few days ago and in print April 8.
“I’m not sure what it will achieve,” said one company insider, labeling the altered masthead, “a small change that will cause a lot of work for the staff.”
A.J.’s OK: Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s A.J. Higgins didn’t file one of his insightful Capitol Connections columns  last week, leading to speculation from a couple of e-mailers that he’d been muzzled by powerful unknown forces.
Higgins e-mailed to say the blame lies with the end-of-session madness that’s had the Legislature debating into the wee hours. “It's been kinda nutzy up here,” he said, promising to submit the column he wrote last week, but didn’t have time to get edited, later today.
And then get some sleep.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com