Heads start to roll at KHON-TV
Those receiving notices were mostly part-timers who knew they were going to be let go
Montecito Broadcast Group LLC began issuing layoff notices to part-time and full-time KHON employees last week, indicating their employment would be terminated at the end of the month.
KHON President and General Manager Joe McNamara would not provide a number of employees receiving notices, as it was likely some would accept other positions within the station. He said yesterday he expected any layoff to be "minimal."
Most of those receiving notices were part-time employees who already knew they would be losing their jobs, he said.
The union representing some of the affected employees, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1260, was aware of the development, but officials were off-island and could not be reached for comment.
KHON staff was informed by Montecito Comptroller Wade O'Hagan Jan. 12 of the company's intention to lay off staff in two waves, one to be completed by the end of January, the other, by the end of February. At the time it was projected that 35 employees, or 32 percent of the KHON staff, would be cut.
The layoffs were to have been executed by Emmis Communications Corp. prior to Montecito taking control of the station. But that plan was thwarted when senior managers refused to turn over lists of positions to be cut, and eight of nine senior managers resigned, including Senior Vice President and General Manager Rick Blangiardi.
In late January, Blangiardi reassumed his leadership position at then-sister-station KGMB, for which Emmis is entertaining offers.
When Emmis announced plans to sell its television stations in May 2005, Jeff Smulyan, chairman, chief executive officer and president, had said, "Our television employees have proven themselves to be the best operators in American television and they deserve the opportunity to continue the good work they've done in the last seven years."
But moving from KHON to KGMB to continue that work was not open, for most.
Randy Bongarten, president of the Emmis television division, said Blangiardi was prohibited from hiring, at KGMB, any of the senior managers who had left KHON.
"First of all, I don't think we knew that everybody was going to quit en masse," Bongarten said.
He said he did not believe any of the managers had noncompete clauses. He also said he believed they either knew or should have known Emmis would not re-hire them, considering KGMB competes against the company to whom it had just sold KHON.
"That wouldn't be right," he said.
KGMB at the time had several vacancies left unfilled, due to a hiring freeze Emmis imposed for the pending sale.
Some positions were unfrozen, "and finding people of the caliber that we'd want to have -- a number of those people at KHON are very good people ... but you don't think about it because you have other responsibilities," Bongarten said.
He explained, "We have the responsibility to adhere to what's in the best interests of the company overall and to be honorable in our dealings with people we sell television stations to."