Reaction To KJZZ Sexual Harassment Report
As we reported earlier this week, Jim Paluzzi, KJZZ general manager, retired following an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. Many of those allegations were upheld by the investigator.
The investigator’s report details the experiences of four men who “described conduct that appeared to fall within the definition of sexual harassment.”
One male staffer said general manager Jim Paluzzi put his hand on the man’s thigh three or four times.
Another man complained that Paluzzi made him uncomfortable with lots of questions about his body and compliments about his physique. That’s all according to the report.
Independent journalist Jeff Tyler spoke with 12 current and former employees who confirmed the allegations made in the report, but only one would go on the record.
The first line of the report might provide an understanding why: “Current and past KJZZ employees expressed an extreme level of fear of retaliation or retribution by Paluzzi for participating in this investigation.”
The one person who did speak publicly is Tracy Greer. She worked in the KJZZ newsroom for five years. Greer was the managing editor until she left last year.
She did not experience harassment, but heard from co-workers who did. And Greer shared her observations with the investigator.
“I’m very grateful that the culture around the reporting of sexual harassment has changed so that action has now been taken,” Greer said.
Greer’s been hearing from current and formers employees now that Jim Paluzzi is no longer their boss.
“There’s been shock at the details of the report,” she said. “There’s been relief that this ongoing investigation is coming to a close. That there’s resolution. That Jim will not be at the station anymore.”
Greer was in good standing when she left KJZZ.
She says she walked away, in part, because she didn’t think Paluzzi would ever be held accountable.
“I didn’t think anything would be done. I didn’t think anything would change,” Greer said.
"There’s been shock at the details of the report. There’s been relief that this ongoing investigation is coming to a close. That there’s resolution.”
— Tracy Greer, former KJZZ managing editor
Paluzzi is now the third person to leave Rio Salado College this year in the wake of sexual misconduct accusations.
Matt Hasson is the spokesperson for Maricopa County Community College District, which overseas Rio Salado and also holds the license for this station.
He defended the college’s ability to keep its employees safe.
“If somebody makes an allegation, we’re going to look at it, we’re going to be thorough about it, we’re going to follow our process and we’re going to take this matter seriously. And regardless of what the outcomes are of the investigation, we’re going to take action,” Hasson said.
But Paluzzi was not fired.
He was allowed to resign, despite an investigation that substantiated his sexual harassment of co-workers.
When asked if Paluzzi was getting off easy if he was not fired, Hasson said, “This is a very serious matter. These are very serious allegations. They are not criminal allegations, however. Our employees deserve the right to come to work, be safe, be treated with respect, and be in an environment free of this kind of behavior. And he’s not here anymore.”
Jim Paluzzi did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But, in a 20-page written response to the report given to the college, Paluzzi said his compliments of male employees were taken out of context — he only meant to be supportive.
He said he had been misunderstood by an employee who thought Paluzzi threatened him not to expose his advances.
Paluzzi wrote, “The venue was crowded and noisy … I can only conclude that he misheard me.”
Bruce Shapiro runs the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia Journalism School, where he also teaches ethics.
After reviewing the investigator’s report and Paluzzi’s responses, Shapiro said, “To me, this report shows how when managers are careless about boundaries in the workplace, are careless about boundaries after hours, are not mindful of how their power is perceived and experienced by subordinates, it shows how that undermines trust in the newsroom as a whole.”
Restoring trust in the newsroom is not yet a done deal.
The district is also investigating how administrators have handled sexual harassment complaints to see if changes are needed going forward.
Meanwhile, Mark Moran, KJZZ associate general manager, remains on leave pending the completion of a separate investigation.
Reports on both investigations are expected to be made public by early September.
Jeff Tyler is an independent journalist, based in Los Angeles, who has been hired by KJZZ to report on these investigations.