CLAYTON, Mo. - St. Louis attorney and sports radio personality Kevin Slaten has sued his former employer in St. Louis County Circuit Court May 2, alleging wrongful termination.
Slaten was fired from KFNS (590 AM, 100.7 FM) on April 4, after a controversial interview with St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan.
Slaten interviewed Duncan on March 27 during his highly rated "The Bottom Line" radio show that aired on KFNS from 3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Duncan said Slaten put him on the air without his permission which violated Federal Communication Commission rules.
KFNS originally suspended Slaten for two days after Duncan threatened to sue Slaten and the radio station, and then was later fired by station general manager Evan Crocker.
In addition to Slaten, KFNS also fired Slaten's producer, Evan Makovsky.
In the meantime, St. Louis County Circuit Judge Larry Kendrick issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Slaten from working at any rival radio stations of KFNS.
According to published reports, Slaten told Kendrick that he had an opportunity to work at another radio station.
KFNS argues that Slaten's no compete clause prohibits his from working at a rival station until early October.
In his suit, Slaten claims he entered into an employment agreement with KFNS' parent companies, Archway Assets and Big League Broadcasting, on Sept. 15, 2007, to serve as on-air talent for radio stations KFNS-AM (590), KFNS-FM (100.7) and KRFT-AM (1190).
According to the complaint, Slaten would critically analyze the performance, decisions, management and activities of professional and collegiate sports organizations having a fan base in the St. Louis area.
This analysis routinely drew the enmity of various fans and sport figures within the St. Louis area.
"The controversy surrounding Slaten's analysis resulted in increased audience participation and ratings," the complaint states.
Slaten claims that the radio station was aware and even encouraged his practice of critical analysis and the controversy associated with his show at the time they entered into his agreement.
"Further the controversy surrounding Slaten's program played was a material factor in Defendants' decision to initially employ Slaten, to enter into the Agreement, and by doing so making Slaten their highest paid on-air talent," the complaint states.
Slaten claims that on the day of the Duncan interview, he was doing his show at Ozzie's Restaurant and Bar in Maryland Heights with Makovsky as his producer and Patrick Devine was his board operator.
Slaten claims that despite his requests to have his producer on location with him, KFNS had Makovsky and Devine stay at the studio.
Slaten claims in his role as producer, Makovsky contacted Duncan, and requested that he appear on the show to talk about his decision not to place a particular pitcher in the starting rotation.
According to the complaint, Duncan declined stating that he had never appeared and would never appear on Slaten's show.
Slaten claims he instructed Makovsky to call Duncan and play a tape of a previous appearance on the show to demonstrate to Duncan that he had previously appeared on the show despite his prior comment to the contrary.
"Sometime later, Slaten was told that Duncan was "ready to go."
Slaten acknowledged that he understood. Devine, without confirming that Duncan knew he was being placed on the air, took the necessary actions required to send the signal, including Duncan's telephone line, to the transmission towers, and thereby placed the call 'on the air," the complaint states.
"Slaten did not know nor, given his remote location, could he have known that Duncan was unaware the he was being placed 'on the air,"' the complaint also states.
"Additionally, because of his remote location, Slaten could not have initiated any phone call, placed a phone call on the air, or terminated any phone call, whether on air or otherwise."
Slaten claims when the call was first placed on the air, the sound of the telephone ringing was heard and when Duncan answered he was assuming that Duncan knew he was on the air.
According to Slaten, he stated, "Hi, this is Kevin Slaten at '590 the Fan' in St. Louis."
Slaten claims the conversation with Duncan was contentious and argumentative and lasted about three minutes and ended with Duncan hanging up on him.
After the conversation with Slaten, Duncan threw threatened to sue Slaten and KFNS.
Slaten claims that station general manager Evan Crocker met with him on two different occasions after the phone call and told Slaten that he had reviewed that tape and that it did not indicate any wrongdoing by Slaten.
According to Slaten, near the end of his April 2 broadcast, Crocker told him to come to his office once his show was completed.
Slaten claims other members of KFNS management were also in the office and he was informed that he was being suspended for two days.
"Crocker and other members of management indicated to Slaten that they did not believe he did anything wrong and that the action was taken only to make a statement to the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") in the event that a complaint was filed," the complaint states.
According to Slaten, two days later he received a letter via courier stating that he was being terminated for cause.
Slaten claims KFNS used the Duncan interview as a pretext for his termination when he was actually terminated as a cost saving measure.
"Defendants breached the Agreement in that Slaten was not terminated for cause; the allegations of "for cause" were a pretext for Defendants to alleviate other business and financial problems of the Defendants, to include, but not limited to currying favor with the agents, servants and employees of the St. Louis Cardinal Baseball Club, L.L.C.," the complaint states.
Represented by Chet Pleban of St. Louis, Slaten is seeking damages in an amount to be proven at trial, but to exceed $25,000.