- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2006

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A newspaper has fired a reporter who wrote an anonymous letter to the Pulitzer Prize board critical of the newspaper’s entry for its work in uncovering the state’s coin investment scandal.

George Tanber, a reporter for the Blade for 14 years, was fired Thursday for “displaying a pattern of conduct which was dishonest, inappropriate or both,” the newspaper reported in yesterday’s editions.

Mr. Tanber, who worked in the newspaper’s bureau in Monroe, Mich., had been suspended last week while the paper investigated, after telling Blade editors Tuesday that he wrote the letter.

The Blade was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in public service. In April 2005, the paper broke the story about a state investment in rare coins managed by a prominent Republican fundraiser. The scandal led to charges of theft, and Republican Gov. Bob Taft pleaded no contest to ethics violations last year.

The letter said the newspaper knew about problems with the investment in 2004 and tried to cover up the fact for fear that its investigation would be discredited.

The Blade hired outside investigators to help identify the author of the letter, interviewed employees and public officials, and reviewed e-mails on Mr. Tanber’s work laptop computer.

Mr. Tanber could not be reached for comment yesterday. Messages seeking comment were left at possible home listings for him. In a statement to the Blade, he said it was his responsibility as a journalist to report what he perceived as ethics violations.

“I’m saddened that it came to this,” Mr. Tanber said. “I hope the Blade becomes a more honest newspaper as a result.”

Blade editors deny that the newspaper acted unethically.

“The Blade and ethics are synonymous,” said John Robinson Block, publisher and editor in chief. “We’re a victim of a disgruntled employee.”

The letter did not challenge the accuracy of the stories. Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, has said it was not a factor in the judging. The Times-Picayune of New Orleans and the Sun Herald of southern Mississippi won the public service award for their coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

The Blade has a daily circulation of about 140,000 and is owned by Block Communications Inc.

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