Television station KLKN is suing a former reporter, saying she broke her two-year contract to take a job with an Omaha station.
Citadel Communications, which owns the Lincoln-based ABC affiliate, filed suit Monday against Melina Matthes, who now works for KPTM-TV. The suit seeks at least $55,000 in damages -- nearly twice the annual salary KLKN paid Matthes -- plus attorneys’ costs.
After giving a little more than two weeks' notice, the suit says, Matthes turned in her security key to management Sept. 19 and stopped showing up for work.
The lawsuit alleges that the untimely turnover of the station's weekend manager-producer position caused $30,000 in losses from a potential drop in ratings points, a $20,000 loss from efforts to promote and train Matthes and $5,000 in expenses incurred in the search for a new hire.
Matthes began her association with Citadel in July 2010 as a news intern. She was hired on as a morning editor Oct. 11, 2010, and promoted to weekend producer and reporter a month later, according to the lawsuit.
The suit also says Matthes gave verbal and written notice on Sept. 4 she planned to quit, despite being aware other members of the weekend news team planned to leave at the end of that month when their contracts expired.
Her boss rejected her request to breach the contract just before the critical November ratings period, according to the lawsuit. Lower ratings can translate into lost advertising revenue.
Her departure left KLKN without an experienced weekend producer and manager during the Nebraska football season, creating problems for pre- and post-game coverage, the lawsuit says, and it negatively affected staff morale and overall operations.
Matthes declined to comment on the suit, saying she needed to consult her attorney.
She announced her job jump in a Sept. 25 Facebook post and said the couple of weeks leading up to the move were emotional but she was excited to be working in her hometown.
“I have never been treated so poorly by management in a professional work environment," she said of her former bosses in the post. "I am excited to put those bullies behind me and start a thrilling new chapter in my life.”
KLKN General Manager Roger Moody said Matthes is entitled to her opinion and declined further comment.
Moody said he is not concerned about the prospect of viewers reacting negatively to news of the lawsuit.
"I think most people understand it is a business matter. It's not a personal matter," he said.
KLKN’s attorney, Mark Schorr, declined comment. KPTM General Manager Jeff Miller could be reached for comment.