Does CBS 3 have no choice but to fire Larry Mendte in order to defend itself against Alycia Lane's current wrongful-termination suit against the station? "If they don't get rid of Mendte somehow, they're going to have a problem," says local attorney J. Conor Corcoran, who does not represent Mendte or Lane.
Mendte is currently benched by the station pending further investigation by federal authorities as to whether he illegally hacked into Lane's private e-mails. He has not yet been charged with a crime. CBS 3 fired Lane in January during the fallout from her New York arrest on charges that she assaulted an NYPD officer. Even though the assault charge was later dropped, she was terminated by the station. She filed suit, by form of writ of summons, a less common method of initiating a lawsuit, in late January.
Corcoran says that CBS 3 would be shooting itself in the foot by not firing Mendte, as Lane's civil attorney, Paul Rosen, could point to a double standard as to why his client was fired and Mendte was not. Both anchors, like nearly everyone in local television, had a morals clause in their contracts. A CBS 3 spokeswoman had no comment yesterday other than to say that the station is cooperating with authorities and that Mendte will not be on the air pending investigation.
Mendte's attorney Michael Schwartz said that he is working with CBS 3 to try to come to a mutually agreeable resolution as to his status. As to whether Mendte would be offering his resignation, Schwartz only repeated his previous comment. Rosen told us that his civil case against CBS 3 is "not based upon or related to the separate and independent investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office into computer crime."
The main difference between Mendte and Lane seems to be how their colleagues and former colleagues feel about their fates. Mendte "had a tremendous track record in the Delaware Valley, from giving his time and energy both professionally and personally to charities, and using his bully pulpit as a journalist to champion the stories often untold, while Lane was someone with a very thin resumé. He had so much potential, and he was such a good person, and now he's done," said a former employee, echoing sentiments of some current staffers.
Meanwhile, CBS 3 is frantically re-editing a portion of its Thursday programming related to a pledge drive for the Alex's Lemonade Stand, a charity close to Mendte and on which he served on the board until last week.