Former Suffolk Times editor sues company

05/16/2014 3:10 PM |
Times/Review Newsgroup's headquarters on Main Road in Mattituck. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

Times/Review Newsgroup’s headquarters on Main Road in Mattituck. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

The former editor of The Suffolk Times has filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the newspaper’s parent company, claiming the news organization fired him last July because of his age, according to a federal lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

In the suit, filed in U.S. District Court, Tim Kelly, 60, alleges that the newspaper’s executive editor, Grant Parpan, and publisher, Andrew Olsen, fired him based on “their prejudice against older workers in general, and [Mr.] Kelly in particular.”

Mr. Kelly — who had been editor of The Suffolk Times for four years at the time of his firing and had worked for the company on and off for a total of 15 years — was 59 years old when he was dismissed.

“[The] newspaper’s wrongful termination of [Mr.] Kelly based upon his age after so many years of faithful service and without basis is shocking and should be punished,” the lawsuit asserts.

One basis for the suit alleges that the company “caused the termination” of other employees in Mr. Kelly’s age range by “creating negative working conditions and/or cutting hours and benefits” and replaced them with workers under the age of 40.

Mr. Olsen defended the company’s human resources practices on Thursday.

“Times/Review is committed to being an equal opportunity employer,” he said. “Staffing decisions within the company are not based on race, gender, age or any other similar characteristic. Rather, all such decisions are based upon the business needs of the company.”

In the suit, Mr. Kelly pointed to past accolades he had won personally, and that the paper had won under his tenure, as evidence that his “work was always of excellent quality.” The claim states that Mr. Parpan was promoted to executive editor over Mr. Kelly in July 2012 “despite the much greater knowledge, experience, and education of [Mr.] Kelly.”

Mr. Parpan, who previously served as editor of Times/Review’s North Shore Sun for three years and later as the company’s web editor, declined to comment on the suit, referring questions to attorneys for Times/Review Newsgroup.

“All allegations about the lawsuit are denied in their entirety,” said Matthew Wolin, an attorney representing Times/Review.

Before his most recent stint with Times/Review, Mr. Kelly served for three years as public relations director for Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, according to the lawsuit. He also previously worked as a press secretary for former congressman William Carney and as editor of the Traveler-Watchman newspaper.

Mr. Kelly said Mr. Parpan, 35, had called him an “old man” in the year before his firing, according to the lawsuit. The suit further alleges that although Mr. Kelly was informed of issues related to his performance a month before his firing, those “purported issues were entirely false.”

In July, Mr. Parpan and Mr. Olsen told Mr. Kelly that the company was “going in another direction” and that he was being fired, according to the suit.

Shortly thereafter, court papers state, Mr. Olsen told Mr. Kelly his position had been eliminated, that his firing met “business needs” and that he was dismissed based on “performance issues.”

The lawsuit states Mr. Kelly is seeking $3 million for each of his three claims, alleging that he suffered economic harm and “anguish, embarrassment, suffering and humiliation.”

Given that the Times/Review is a party to this lawsuit, it was determined that it would not be appropriate for the Times/Review staff to reach out directly to Mr. Kelly or his lawyer for comment.

psquire@timesreview.com

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