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Largo-paper flap likely over with latest retraction

LARGO — The war of words between city officials and the Clearwater Gazette may have come to an end.

On Tuesday, Gazette editor Sandy Pollick published a second retraction in less than a month for writer Leo Coughlin's comments accusing city officials of being corrupt. City officials were threatening to sue the newspaper if it did not apologize for Coughlin's statements, which they say are untrue.

"If in fact, Leo's allegations were contradicted by published and known facts, then the Gazette apologizes for any representation that was in error," Pollick wrote.

She could not be reached for comment Friday.

City Manager Mac Craig, who was one of the officials often the subject of Coughlin's columns, said while he was not quite satisfied with the second retraction, he was eager to put the issue to rest.

"It's time for us to just quit dealing with it. It's not worth the time and effort," he said.

Craig said the retraction didn't cut the mustard because it failed to specifically apologize to Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert and finance director Kim Adams, who were also named in Coughlin's accusations.

The dispute started in November when Coughlin called Largo, "pound for pound, the most corrupt city in America."

Craig, Adams and Schubert hired City Attorney Alan Zimmet to pressure Pollick into publishing a retraction or face a lawsuit.

They said Coughlin's claims were malicious and unsubstantiated.

The first retraction was published Dec. 17. The week before, Coughlin quit, saying he left out of concern for Pollick and the Gazette because he heard from a third party that she was worried about a suit.

In the December retraction, Pollick said she did not read Coughlin's article accusing the city of corruption before it was published.

That retraction prompted a second letter from Zimmet to the Gazette that said in part: "Both your letter and the retraction, while recognizing the irresponsibility of the Gazette and Mr. Coughlin for untrue statements made in his article, do not go nearly far enough to satisfy my clients."

Largo-paper flap likely over with latest retraction 01/09/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 8, 2010 5:15pm]
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