WINK anchor and investigative reporter Matthew Dougherty has filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the Fort Myers, Fla. CBS affiliate, alleging he was fired in retaliation for reporting a story about a local doctor with ties to the news director.
The Naples Daily News reports Dougherty was assigned a story about a guy who bought a storage locker containing about 100 boxes of medical records from a local doctor.
The Daily News says when WINK news director Russ Kilgore found out who the doctor was, he told producers and Dougherty to “kill the story.”
The lawsuit also says Kilgore tried to get Dougherty to “conceal what he discovered.”
“Matt-I also need you to gather up all your notes, put them all in one big sealable envelope and get it to me,” the lawsuit says Kilgore wrote in text messages to Dougherty. “I also need you to turn in your laptop so we can make sure what is on your laptop is no longer in existence.”
The lawsuit claims Kilgore demanded Dougherty “confess in writing to doing something wrong” to protect the doctor. Dougherty refused.
In late July, the station demoted Dougherty and cut his salary, according to the lawsuit. Less than a week later, after Dougherty hired a lawyer, he was fired. He was one year into a three-year contract with the station.
A July 29 letter from the station’s attorneys to Lask, Dougherty’s attorney, said Dougherty did not show up to work for two days and was fired for breaching his employment agreement. But according to the lawsuit, Kilgore told Lask on July 27 that Dougherty was “terminated effective that day.”
“The last month, the way they’ve treated me has been nothing short of shameful,” Dougherty said in a prepared statement provided by his attorney. “They hired me to be an investigative reporter and that’s what they got.”