NEWS DIRECTOR IN DETROIT? YES & NO. LIFE IS STRANGER THAN FICTION.
Life is stranger than fiction. You've heard that one. I'm here to tell you it's true. What has transpired in my life over the last week or so could not be imagined. So many people have called or emailed to ask what the heck happened that I have decided to write it here-- exactly the way it happened. I won't go into detail about the dispute between Kevin O'Brien and Kevin Adell because that's their business. I'll just tell you what I know about what happened to me. There are some links to click below. The last one is to video posted on my YouTube channel. I'm not here to say anything bad about anyone. Read the blog and draw your own conclusions. Here's the chronology:
1. I read that Kevin O'Brien was looking for a News Director for an independent TV station in Detroit. I had worked for three months at WLNE-TV6 in Providence--as a favor to then station GM Steve Doerr (with whom I had worked in Philly and Cleveland) --when O'Brien owned WLNE. In fact, however, I had never met Kevin O'Brien or spoken with him. I had never even seen him. Still, I'd been looking for a job near home--and this one was only three hours away. So, I called O'Brien's daughter, Shannon, with whom I had worked in both Cleveland and Providence, to ask for his email address. I sent Kevin O'Brien and email telling him that I'd be interested in hearing more about the job. I received a reply from him a few days later (Feb. 11). He asked me to call him the next day.
2. He called me first. He told me he had been hired by Kevin Adell, the owner of "The Word Network" and WADL-TV (Detroit) to make aggressive changes at WADL. He told me his title was President of WADL. He said he needed a News Director there-- someone who could do everything. I told him I'd love to hear more. He invited me to come to Detroit on Feb. 14 for an interview.
3. I drove to Detroit for the 11 AM interview. By 12:30 PM, the interview was over and the job had been offered to me. I told him that I'd like to see everything he'd offered in writing, but that the terms we had discussed were acceptable. The terms included a corporate apartment for one year and a company car with a gas card. I would be able to use the car to go home to Ohio on weekends and wouldn't have to have one of my cars in Michigan.
4. On Feb. 15, I spoke with Kevin O'Brien on the phone and accepted the job.
5. On Feb. 16, Kevin O'Brien sent me an email saying he was "thrilled" that I was WADL's News Director. The note went on to outline many of his expectations and to schedule a conference call for that Friday. I was told to travel to Detroit Friday to fill out my paperwork, move things into my office and have meetings with some of the department heads.
6. On Feb. 17, I did just that. The conference call included the WADL general manager, Matt Uhl, (who had also been hired recently by Kevin O'Brien) several others and myself-- along with Kevin O'Brien on the phone. Later, I had lunch with the Creative Services Director (appointee), who'd been given that position by Kevin O'Brien only recently. We talked about plans for promoting the news, among other topics. I was asked by the GM to write a section of the press release announcing my appointment as News Director. I did that. Later, the press release was sent around the world.http://www.mediabistro.com/tvspy/wad...irector_b39715
7. On Feb. 21, with the blessing of O'Brien and Uhl, I drove to Detroit again. I moved some things into my office. I was given a security badge with my photo on it. The badge is necessary to gain access to the outer doors of the WADL building as well as my office and other interior areas. I also was given the keys to the company vehicle that had been assigned to me. That afternoon, I was having a meeting with the production staff when one of the editors asked if I had seen the email announcing that the Creative Services Director had been terminated. I hadn't. I worked a full day and then drove the 204 miles home to Ohio in the company car.
8. On Feb. 22, I was watching my daughter play basketball when my cell phone rang. It was an engineer from WADL calling to tell me that the MacBook Pro laptop that had been approved for my use was there and ready. I thanked him and casually asked what else was happening. He mentioned that Kevin O'Brien had been fired. "WHAT?!" I exclaimed. It was true, he said. There was a memo. There was even a press release from company owner Kevin Adell. It said that O'Brien had violated company policies. It said that Adell had employed a retired FBI agent to investigate O'Brien. It did not say why. In fact, it was so vague that anyone's imagination could freely create the darkest of transgressions.http://www.e4mobile.com/releases/212462
9. On Feb. 23, I left messages for O'Brien, but did not speak with him. I called the GM to ask if O'Brien's firing would have any effect on my job. He assured me that he had no idea. Huh? I wanted to know if my apartment was ready. Not yet. I was given the name of a man who was supposed to be in charge of securing my apartment. I left a message for him. He never called back. I asked the GM point blank if I was still employed. All he could tell me was that he didn't know anything except that he still had his job.
10. On Feb. 24, I spoke with Kevin O'Brien. He told me that he was sorry for what had transpired. He didn't go into detail about what had happened. I also spoke with the GM. He was just as vague about my situation as he'd been the day before. I asked point blank if I still had a job. He said he didn't know anything. I told him that I was expecting to move into my apartment Sunday and to work Monday. He said he didn't know anything. Who was I supposed to ask?
11. On Feb. 25, I spoke with the GM on the telephone, determined to get a straight answer. I put the call on the speaker of my cell phone. My 12-year-old son and I were headed to my daughter's basketball game. I wanted him to hear the conversation. When it was over, my son said the GM sounded like a guy who was about to kill himself. I told him he was probably reading too much into it. Probably. I never received a straight answer from the GM. I asked a lot of questions and got the run-around. He couldn't tell me if I was still the News Director. He did reveal that Detroit-area agent Mort Meisner had been hired two days earlier to be the "news consultant" for the station. Gee. You'd think the News Director (me) would be on the notification list when a decision is made to hire a "news consultant." You'd think. That night, the GM sent me directions to "The Word Network" and said he'd see me the next morning (Sunday) at 11 AM. I asked, "What should I expect will happen when I get there?" His reply was, "Snow Flurries." Below is the response I sent to that ridiculous email:
I have a wife and three children. I have changed any number of life situations based on the the fact that i have been named News Director at WADL. Since Kevin O'Brien's firing, you have not been able to tell me that I will continue to be the News Director at WADL. You have said only that you don't know anything. Today, you told me that Mort Meisner had been hired two days ago as "news consultant" for WADL. As News Director, should I not have been told this when it happened? Should Meisner not have contacted me to introduce himself?
I have not met Kevin Adell. I have never spoken with Kevin Adell. I certainly have never done anything to him or to you that would warrant this sort of vague and truly unprofessional treatment. All I did was accept a job from someone Kevin Adell had hired. I have also accepted congratulatory messages from many friends who have read the news release announcing my appointment-- a news release issued by you and WADL.
The bottom line is that if I am going to meet you at The Word Network tomorrow so that someone can tell me that I'm no longer employed there and so they can take possession of the company vehicle and my I.D. badge, then I wish you would simply tell me, so that someone can follow me there and give me a ride home. I am a professional and an honest person. This cloak and dagger stuff is not necessary. Frankly, it is annoying and the paranoia it has created is contributing to a stress level that can't be healthy.
I'm not even mentioning the fact that I've already interviewed one prospect for the reporter/anchor position that I was told by Kevin O'Brien and you to fill-- and I've spoken to another prospect on the phone. These people's lives are being affected by this as well.
If my worry is unwarranted, then you should tell me that, too. If you have keys to an apartment for me and I am expected to work Monday, then I should be told so that I can pack appropriately. If I'm coming there to live, then I have to bring a lot of stuff. If I'm coming there to turn in the car and go home, then I don't.
What could I have possibly done to anyone there to warrant being subjected to this sort of stress-causing uncertainty? Honestly, the idea that I would be allowed to pack that car with all of my clothing and other personal items only to have it all removed and set out in the parking lot of The Word Network is absurd-- and absolutely cruel. I won't do it. You're the GM. Tell me I'm still the News Director or tell me to come there and turn in my car and badge. If you don't know, then I'm guessing you could find out.
You seem like a good person. I don't need a weather report, I need the truth.
12. I sent an email to Mort Meisner asking him to call me as soon as possible. He replied within half an hour, saying that he'd try to do so tomorrow, but that he was out of town at his daughter's track meet. I replied that because I was supposed to be packing my belongings to move to Detroit for my new job at 8 the next morning, but I still didn't know whether the apartment Kevin O'Brien had promised would be ready-- or who would have the keys-- that his input was rather urgent. He didn't reply or call.
13. At 2:30 AM, Sunday, about three hours after my lengthy email was sent to the GM of WADL, he replied to it with this: "Have someone follow you to take you back."
14. Later that morning, I got into the company car and drove to Detroit. My wife followed in her vehicle. During the three-hour trip, I spoke with the GM several times. He remained vague at the outset about what was to occur when I arrived. Finally, he did admit that "this isn't going to work" --as far as my employment as News Director was concerned. So, I finally had confirmed that I had been fired-- something I'm sure the GM and others had known for days. Why was I the last to know? Maybe they were worried I'd do something awful to the company car. In fact, I could have told the GM to send someone to Ohio to pick up the car, but I didn't. First, I have class. Second, I was afraid I'd be accused of stealing it or damaging it somehow.
15. As I neared Detroit, I was called by a man named Rich Mazzari, Kevin Adell's security chief, who identified himself as the same retired FBI agent who had conducted Adell's investigation into Kevin O'Brien--the investigation that resulted in O'Brien's firing. Rich wanted to know when I would arrive at "The Word Network" headquarters to turn in the car and my I.D. badge. I told him I'd call him as I got closer.
16. I had no intention of going anywhere near a building complex with which I was unfamiliar. I was headed for WADL, which is located about 30 minutes from "The Word" complex. After all I'd been through, I was highly suspicious of Rich, Kevin Adell, the GM and everyone else connected with WADL and "The Word Network." I also had my wife's safety to consider. When we arrived at WADL, I called Rich and told him to meet me there.
17. He showed up in a Caddy SUV with the GM as his passenger. They parked on the side of the building. I was parked in front. They went inside for a few minutes and then came outside. Rich carried a box of my belongings (awards trophies and plaques I had moved into my office). We exchanged pleasantries in the parking lot. They asked me to come inside the building. I declined. I asked the GM why this had been done to me. He replied that it was because of my connection to Kevin O'Brien. Some connection. I mentioned that I had incurred considerable expenses incurred during the interview process and following my employment as News Director. He didn't seem interested.
18. The GM then drove away in the company car I had returned. Rich invited me to come inside the building to warm up. It was a sunny day and just after noon. I declined, saying I enjoyed the sunshine, but thinking that if I did go inside, I might never be seen again. I called my wife on her cell phone and told her to pick me up at the top of the driveway. She pulled out to 15-Mile Road from the adjacent parking lot, where she had been SHOOTING VIDEO SINCE THE SUV WITH RICH AND THE GM HAD ARRIVED just in case they decided to recreate the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. Rich was still inside the building when I walked with my box from the WADL parking lot to the edge of the road to meet my wife. We drove back to Cleveland wondering what either of us had done to deserve that sort of treatment. Click the link below to read the news release issued the next day by WADL. Note how it says I was escorted from the property by security. I don't know if that was written just to make me sound like some sort of criminal, or if that was what Rich had been ordered to do but decided not to do. Either way, it never happened. Nor was that my "first day of work" as the news release states. Actually, that day was not a "day of work" at all. It was an off day. My first "day of work" had occurred many days earlier. If not, then WADL is in the habit of issuing company cars and security badges complete with photos and department head titles to people who are not employed there. If not, then WADL is in the habit of having its department heads meet with people who are not employed there to make plans for key parts of the business and to order thousands of dollars worth of equipment for someone who is not employed there to use. If not, then WADL is also in the habit of moving its Public Affairs Director, Dody Johnson, from her office at the WADL building to an office at The Word Network building in order to give that WADL office to someone who is not employed at WADL.http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/1...-kevin-o-brien
19. I used the link to the Tucsonnewsnow.com site because my wife's brother lives in that area. She had just told him happily a week earlier that my long search for a good full time job had ended. What a shock for him to learn that I had been fired so soon-- and for no reason other than having been hired by Kevin O'Brien.
20. On February 29, I sent an email to the GM containing a list of my expenses from the job interview, the days I traveled to Michigan to work at WADL and the day I traveled to Michigan to return the company car and my I.D. badge. Including tolls, gas purchased for the company car and standard payment for mileage on my personal vehicles, the amount of the reimbursement should have been around $1,000. I did not include the dry cleaning bill for clothes that I would not have had cleaned if I had not been hired for that job. I did not include supplies and clothing purchased solely because I had been hired for that job.
21. By the afternoon of March 1, I had not received a response to my email about the expenses. I called the GM. He told me that my list had been forwarded to "corporate" and that "corporate" had determined that I was owed nothing. "We have never reimbursed anyone for job interview expenses," he said.
"What about the $45 cash I spent to put gas in the tank of the company car to drive it back to WADL from Cleveland on Sunday?" I asked.
"Nope," he responded.
"How about the two full days I spent there working? You know. The conference calls; the meetings with department heads and other staff? The interview I arranged and conducted with a candidate for the open reporter position?"
"So, none of that even happened?"
"It didn't happen," the GM replied matter-of-factly.
"Okay," I said. "If you say so."
It did happen, of course. All of it. It happened just the way I've described it here. Below you'll find a link to the video I shot of my I.D. badge, and of the company car sitting in my garage in Ohio. You'll see video of the email I sent to the GM February 25. You'll hear me read it. You'll hear me talking on the phone with the GM and with Rich as I'm driving the company car back to Michigan on February 26. You'll see and hear what transpired in the parking lot at WADL when the GM and Rich came to get the car and to hand me the box of belongings I had moved into my office at WADL. You'll see that I was not "escorted" from the property. There is more, including an email with a contract attached, but I'll save a few things for later.
For now, I'll borrow a quote from Kevin Adell--a quote contained in his news release announcing the firing of Kevin O'Brien: "I am deeply saddened that in this day and age, this type of behavior still exists."
Psychiatrists might try to blame such odd, heartless, anti-social behavior on physical shortcomings resulting in a deep need to prove one's manhood. Some would look to instances of childhood bullying. I couldn't hazard a guess about what makes Kevin Adell capable of doing what he did to my family and me for no reason other than the fact that I had been hired by Kevin O'Brien.
Like I said, I've never met the man. I've never spoken to him. Now you know the truth. Here's the YouTube link:
UPDATE: I removed the video from my youtube channel March 9. It had been viewed between 600 and 700 times. If anyone would still like to see it, I can certainly make arrangements. Otherwise, I think the ship has sailed and it's time to move forward.
Posted by Matt Stevens