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Revelations continue at OA

Posted: July 19, 2012 - 7:38pm

Events leading up to the firings of longtime founder and editor Marc Smirnoff and managing editor and art editor Carol Ann Fitzgerald at The Oxford American have revealed allegations of sexual misconduct that have pitted current employees and interns against the top minds responsible for the magazine’s assention as a nationally acclaimed, literary magazine.

On Wednesday evening, Smirnoff sat in a Starbucks in Conway and described a “whirlwind” of events and secrecy surrounding the Oxford American Literary Project board’s decision to investigate and then fire him and Fitzgerald.

“We’ve just worked our butts off in good faith,” Smirnoff said.

Smirnoff and Fitzgerald have decided to take their fight public.

On Wednesday, the pair sent emails to Tom Courtway, president of the University of Central Arkansas where the magazine’s offices are located — to point out a slew of misbehavior, including sex between the senior editor and an intern which is against the magazine’s policy.

Arch Jones, UCA’s organizational and community services director, said Thursday afternoon that UCA has begun an administrative investigation into allegations of misconduct. In his email to Courtway, Smirnoff apologized for not taking care of the problems he saw among his staff earlier.

“I consistently noticed disturbing or suspicious behavior but I always allowed his acts to fit in the category of ‘isolated events,’” Smirnoff said in the email. “My failure to see what was truly in front of us is how I failed The OA and UCA.”

On Wednesday, while going over the events leading up to his dismissal, Smirnoff said he is “struggling” for what he loves — the heart and soul of The Oxford American.

He said the board didn’t give him enough time to prepare an adequate defense when he was told Friday to submit documents and a witnesses list in his defense by noon Saturday, the day before the board unanimously fired him. He could have used some documents from his workplace computer — the very place he was locked out of. He said the board already made up its mind.

Smirnoff is convinced three people turned on him after he told them to stop a drinking game during a July 4 retreat. They refused and he and the senior editor fought. Smirnoff said he’d had trouble with the senior editor previously and asked July 6 that the senior editor resign. On July 7, a complaint was filed with the board, which started a “factual investigation.”

The complaint was also filed the day after Smirnoff fired one intern on July 6 for “insubordination.” The editor was writing a probation letter for another just the day before Publisher Warwick Sabin closed his office at the UCA and changed the locks.

“They were all equally stinkers,” Smirnoff said.

At the same time, Smirnoff has admitted to giving underage interns alcohol, which is a crime, said Massey. And, in his letter to Courtway, Smirnoff admitted he had touched or photographed feet. He also mentioned he had kissed the tops of people’s heads. But he swore Wednesday he never had sex with or inappropriate relations with an intern.

“I have never had, and never will have, sex with one of our Arkansas OA/UCA, etc., interns,” Smirnoff wrote to Courtway.

Smirnoff put the blame for what has happened to him and Fitzgerald squarely on the senior editor and interns, but Massey said many, many more people — including former interns — were interviewed during the investigation earlier this month. They all corroborate that Smirnoff had behaved inappropriately, Massey said.

Massey said he couldn’t say how many people were interviewed because he wanted to “protect the innocent.”

Smirnoff’s actions against the employees is tantamount to “retribution,” Massey said. On Thursday, Massey released a statement that said the intern Smirnoff fired has been offered her job back. He pointed out the investigation included text messages, a voice recording and “Smirnoff’s and Fitzgerald’s own admissions.”

Attorney Nate Coulter, who represents the senior editor at Oxford American, said his client was sexually harassed by Fitzgerald. For her part, Fitzgerald said in her letter to Courtway that she was the one sexually harassed.

Fitzgerald didn’t raise the issue of her sexual harassment until after the senior editor filed his complaint, but she said everything she wrote — a lengthy list of explicit encounters and photographs of the senior editor flipping off the camera — is “100 percent true.” But, the two worked mostly alone in the office, so the accusations have come down to he-said she-said, Fitzgerald said in a phone interview Thursday.

“[We] pretty much worked alone in the office,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s the most disgusting pervert I’ve worked with in all these years.”

Massey said in his statement that none of the witnesses substantiated Fitzgerald’s claim. During an interview Wednesday, Massey reiterated that the board has adequate reason to fire both Smirnoff and Fitzgerald.

“I’d like in the interest of the magazine for this to be over,” Massey said. “It’s a sad time. It’s a sad thing when the board has to terminate the employment of two of its most important creative people.”

Massey said he had warned Fitzgerald and Smirnoff not to pursue the matter publicly, but Smirnoff said he and Fitzgerald are innocent, which is why they want to tell their side of the story.

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my girl friday
5265
Points
my girl friday 07/19/12 - 09:13 pm
3
1
The whole office needs to be

The whole office needs to be fired....then start from scratch with
all new people.

i_wonder
27122
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i_wonder 07/19/12 - 09:20 pm
6
1
Sounds like
Unpublished

These are the days of our lives.

GreerferryMom
58
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GreerferryMom 07/20/12 - 08:19 am
3
1
University

Senior editor had sex with student(s) (interns)-did it happen in the University building? Aren't there laws/regulations against that? We may want Julie to transfer to CBC. We worry enough about sex among students but to have grown men plotting to have sex with students on campus is beyond acceptable. How long has this going on? How many students have been subject to this person's advances? Was he their boss (are they paid interns?). Isn't that illegal?

jellybeansmom
22
Points
jellybeansmom 07/20/12 - 09:42 am
2
1
Transfer to CBC?

Really? Not saying that what they're doing is right, and yes I do think there should be serious repercussions, but the alternative of sending my kid to CBC is definitely NOT an option. If she's at UCA, at least the men are trying to sleep with women... elsewhere, they're trying to sleep with other men!

Hendrix74
39
Points
Hendrix74 07/20/12 - 08:56 am
3
0
Correct

It is improper/illegal to be a supervisor and hold that over an employee for sexual favors.

Kennedyx3
1107
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Kennedyx3 07/20/12 - 09:32 am
1
0
Really???

Another person with a foot fetish? What is up with that?

i_wonder
27122
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i_wonder 07/20/12 - 09:38 am
2
1
question
Unpublished

If he's so disgusting, why are they working TOGETHER to get their jobs back?

BuzzBy
17777
Points
BuzzBy 07/20/12 - 10:00 am
3
1
Now I'm Confused
Unpublished

So Smirnoff and Fitzgerald were NOT an item they were just mutually sexually harassing each other for how long?!?!?!?
Add the whole foot thing in and this is really KINKY
As the OA turn @ UCA can we watch this on channel 6 on Conway Corp???

Attorney Nate Coulter, who represents the senior editor at Oxford American, said his client was sexually harassed by Fitzgerald. For her part, Fitzgerald said in her letter to Courtway that she was the one sexually harassed.

Shameful
4680
Points
Shameful 07/20/12 - 02:41 pm
1
0
Wes Enzinna

Is the Senior Editor! But, as Mr. Massey stated, it's a he said/she said thing, and the "she said" came after the Smirnoff/Fitzgerald firing!
I truly hope UCA investigators get it ALL sorted out!

kates
103
Points
kates 07/20/12 - 10:37 am
2
0
Marc is not the Senior Editor

The senior editor (one of the employees) is one of the people filing a complaint against Smirnoff and Fitzgerald. Smirnoff and Fitzgerald are a couple and have been for years.

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