Sure, it might seem like bad taste to kick the Sun-Sentinel when it's down, especially when its
parent company, Tribune Co., is bankrupt. But we'd say it's not bad taste to point out that the media conglomerate is writing bad checks to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
The Tribune Co. recently used rubber checks to pay $300 for the off-duty cops who patrolled its City Link Beer Fest on November 28 (an event, by the way, that has no relation to the New Times Beerfest held in April).
The company also has failed to reimburse the city for staffing the event with two firefighter/EMTs. Fort Lauderdale spokeswoman Angela DiPietro says the paper owes the City of Fort Lauderdale $581.25; the two firefighter/EMTs have already been compensated by the city.
Lt. Mitch Van Sant says he called the paper to report that the checks had bounced. He says he was told that the company wouldn't be issuing new ones because under the rules of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Tribune Co. et al can stall payment on all obligations it racked up before the bankruptcy filing. Eventually, Tribune reps told Van Sant, a bankruptcy judge will decide whether the cops get paid.
"I just didn't expect this from a huge company like that," Van Sant says. He figures that he has staffed thousands of events for the City of Fort Lauderdale over the years, and that the Tribune Co. is only the second promoter to skip out on payment for its police detail.
Shelly Hall, who organized the event for City Link, and Laura Tarvainen, a local Tribune exec, have yet to respond to our requests for comment.
So what advice would Van Sant give others who are under contract with the Sentinel and its affiliates? "I wouldn't be doing business with them," he says.
Van Sant's holding out hope that the officers will eventually get paid. After all, these guys sacrificed a Friday night to maintain peace among a bunch of drunks.