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By Nancy West,
The Telegraph of Nashua has been cited for failing to properly pay 30 past and current employees a total of $9,000 over the last year, according to Labor Commissioner Ken Merrifield.
Merrifield said an audit by the state Department of Labor was initiated based on employee complaints.
“The Telegraph was very cooperative and made some adjustments to wages,” Merrifield said.
The Telegraph, which was purchased by Ogden Newspapers of Wheeling, W. Va., in 2013, may also face fines, but Merrifield said there will be an informal meeting with the company first. The fines aren’t meant to be punitive, he said.
One former employee, Dave Lahey of Derry, who had been an account executive for less than a year, said he received a check for $576.94. Lahey said he had not complained to the Department of Labor and was surprised to receive the check.
Fired executive editor Sandy Bucknam said he did receive a check.
“It was for $15. I heard from a lot people that they got anywhere from $15 to $50 and one person more than $500,” Bucknam said.
Bucknam was fired on Aug. 1 after 39 years with the Telegraph because he refused to make salaried personnel work longer hours to skirt overtime laws. They were already working 60 hours a week, he said. He was aware of the wage complaints to the state at the time.
After Bucknam’s firing, city editor Chris Garofolo gave his two-week notice and veteran journalists Don Himsel and Kathleen Palmer were laid off soon after.
At the time, Himsel wondered if he had been laid off because he asked for clarification from management about the labor department investigation.
Reached by phone, Heather Goodwin Henline, who was named publisher at the Telegraph in April, said she would try to respond to InDepthNH.org at a later date, but did not think it would be Monday.
She was publisher and general manager of The Inter-Mountain in Elkins, W. Va., which is also owned by Ogden, before coming to The Telegraph. The new editor, Matthew Burdette, also came from The Inter-Mountain.
Merrifield said the violations against The Telegraph included overtime violations, not paying the two-hour minimum required by law if employees report to work, but there is none available through no fault of their own, failing to notify employees of their rate of pay and for not paying employees for breaks shorter than 20 minutes as required.
Bucknam said he just completed seven days of training with Easter Seals to provide direct support to disadvantaged individuals.
“I’ve done just about everything in journalism,” Bucknam said “It was time for a career change.” The working conditions had become toxic after Ogden bought the paper, he said.
Bucknam covered sports for years and was a guest Friday at the reunion of the Merrimack High School football team that won the state championship in 1987.
“The invited me. A lot of guys said when they heard what happened to me they cancelled the paper,” Bucknam said.
The Telegraph had been criticized a year earlier when then-executive editor Roger Carroll resigned after being ordered to withhold information in a story about Ogden’s purchase of a building in downtown Nashua.
For more information about InDepthNH.org, which is published online by the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism, contact Nancy West at email@example.com or call 603-738-5635