Business Monday: ADN, ex-employee settle work dispute lawsuit

An Aspen newspaper and a former staff photographer have settled a lawsuit for undisclosed terms, according to court papers.

Filings made last week in the U.S. District Court of Denver showed a confidential agreement had been reached between the Aspen Daily News and ex-staffer Craig Turpin, most recently the publication’s chief photographer until he quit in May.

In a joint stipulation pleading filed Jan. 21, parties on both sides said they “have resolved this action, and agree to the dismissal of this action, and all claims alleged by any party in this action, with prejudice.”

That means claims from Turpin and the Daily News’ counterclaims are no longer in play and both sides have gone their separate ways in the dispute.

Local disputes and disagreements brought on by coronavirus pandemic have sparked a number of court actions, including the Pitkin County Restaurant Alliance’s attempt to undo the board of health’s Red level health restrictions and an Aspen restaurant’s lawsuit against its insurance carrier over unpaid claims related to lost business from public orders, for instance.

In this case, it was Craig Turpin versus Silver City News and the media company’s respective managing director-publisher and executive producer-publisher, David Cook and Spencer McKnight.

Neither side returned messages Sunday seeking comment on the settlement.

Turpin was represented by the Denver-based Sawaya & Miller Law Firm, which took the defendants to federal court Oct. 12 amid allegations that management told newspaper staff March 26 to keep working as they collected benefits. Part of the plan also allegedly included the Daily News’ paying them 25% of what they collected in unemployment benefits, while employees reported that pay as contract labor, or 1099 income, to the labor department.

In a formal answer dated Dec. 29, Daily News attorney Jason C. Astle of the Denver firm Springer & Steinberg said Turpin’s suit misrepresented Cook’s presentation given to employees. Cook also did not believe the plan was illegal, yet Turpin’s attorney Adam Harrison previously argued the scheme violated the law.

The ADN’s answer also included civil-theft counterclaims against Turpin that he stole a company-owned hard drive containing photos worth $800.

“ADN states that Turpin has 
not returned a hard drive that is and contains ADN’s property, despite a demand for its return,” the counterclaim said.

The Daily News addressed the matter in an Oct. 15 editorial published the same day the litigation was reported in The Aspen Times. The Daily News editorial, entitled “A series of unfortunate events,” called Turpin’s allegations “wild” while standing by the newspaper’s “decisions made during an impossibly difficult time wrought by a pandemic.”

Turpin began work at the Daily News on March 1, 2017.

More Like This, Tap A Topic