Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Desert Drug Probe

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Desert Drug Probe

Article excerpt

PHOENIX NEWSPAPERS INC. said it has fired 22 employees and suspended 28 others for allegedly dealing drugs or being high on the job at the company's two production plants.

Production director Bob Kotwasinski said those fired either bought, sold or provided drugs to undercover private investigator, and those suspended either used drugs on the job or reported to work under the influence.

"We're talking about purchases made on company time and on company property," Kotwasinski said, charging the offenders violated company policy.

Phoenix Newspapers, publisher of the Phoenix Gazette and Arizona Republic, said it had remanded to Phoenix police evidence - including undisclosed quantities of marijuana and crystal methedrine - collected by private detectives during the undercover investigation. Police had turned over the evidence and investigative reports to the Maricopa County attorney's office. No arrests had been made as E&P went to press.

The company went public on March 18 with a statement that investigators from the security firm MarTech Inc. had been working undercover in the newspapers' plants "for some time." It immediately suspended with pay 55 workers, mostly mailers, pending disciplinary action while investigators and newspaper officials began interviews with the suspects.

The firings and suspensions without pay, ranging from 15 to 90 days in duration, were announced April 4. Five suspended employees returned to work without penalty.

Besides hiring investigators working undercover as employees, the probe used "other investigative techniques," including videotapes, to develop evidence.

The investigation focused on the mailrooms of the company's Deer Valley and Mesa plants. All but two of those disciplined were mailers. The disciplined workers were not identified.

Thomas Holmes, business agent of Teamsters Local 401, which represents 120 paper handlers, janitors and others, said the investigation was designed to "intimidate" workers into implicating themselves and others.

One Local 401 member was suspended for 30 days and ordered to undergo drug testing. The union has filed a grievance and has asked the company for evidence but has received none. …

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