Former NBC-2 anchor Craig Wolf speaks about lawsuit
FORT MYERS - A popular news anchor in Southwest Florida is suing his former station, claiming he was fired after exposing hazardous working conditions at his former station. Craig Wolf worked at NBC-2, owned by Waterman Broadcasting, for nearly 20 years. Tonight he speaks exclusively with Four in your Corner's Mike Mason.
We caught up with Craig Wolf at a charity golf tournament in Fort Myers. He says he was fired unfairly and now he's fighting back.
Wolf has plenty of time to putt around the golf course these days. He was fired last March and now he has filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming he was the victim of retaliation.
Craig Wolf: "It's about me losing the life that I had here in Southwest Florida, unfairly, unjustly and unlawfully."
Wolf says he was fired after blowing the whistle on what he calls hazardous working conditions at Waterman Broadcasting.
Craig Wolf: "There's no doubt in my mind that this was a retaliatory firing."
Wolf worked at Waterman Broadcasting for 18 years and was the main anchor of NBC-2 news. Wolf says he developed health problems in 2006, which began as a persistent cough. He says it would only happen when he entered NBC-2's newsroom and studio and he wasn't the only one affected.
Craig Wolf: "I was part of a group of about two to three dozen people who were sick in the building a lot."
Wolf says dust and dirt was everywhere in the newsroom. In 2010, a producer even shot a photo and posted it to Facebook, showing Wolf with a broom and dustpan cleaning around his work desk.
Wolf says it seemed sort of funny at first but it soon became a real problem.
Craig Wolf: "My coughing became chronic in about 2007."
According to his lawsuit, in 2009, ‘Wolf sent an email to Waterman executives and expressed concern that the working conditions were affecting his performance.’
In that email Wolf says he also requested that Waterman have the air ducts and area around the anchor desk cleaned and examined. Wolf says he never heard back from Waterman officials and his condition began to worsen.
Craig Wolf: "I went to an ear nose and throat specialist and I went to an allergist. I had MRI's done, I had scopes done and things shoved up my nose and down my throat."
Wolf says he was diagnosed with allergies to several varieties of mold. According to the lawsuit, in 2010, after going to a specialist, Wolf sent another email to Waterman officials stating his ‘diagnosis that his uncontrollable coughing was likely due to environmental conditions in the Waterman studios.’
Wolf says instead of fixing the problem, Waterman installed special "cough buttons" near the anchor desk so when anchors coughed they could push the button and the sound would be muted.
Craig Wolf: "By putting those cough buttons in I feel they decided to treat the symptom and make sure that the newscast sounded fine but didn't show any regard for the fact that people were coughing and maybe it would have been a good idea to get the source of the coughing."
We wanted to speak with someone at Waterman Broadcasting about Wolf's claims. Over the past couple of days we sent several emails to the General Manager and News Director. We also called numerous times and left messages but no one responded.
According to Wolf's lawsuit, on October 21, 2010, Wolf says he sent an anonymous complaint to OSHA; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, concerning the hazardous working conditions in the studio and newsroom.
The lawsuit states, ‘After Waterman representatives became aware that Wolf filed an OSHA report, Wolf's on-air promotions began to lessen and he was not asked to participate in station events.’ Wolf says he only wanted to expose the problem.
Craig Wolf: "There's no doubt in my mind that that building is making people sick."
In January 2011, Wolf says he wrote a letter to Waterman officials stating, ‘It would be of help to me....if I could bring in, at my cost, someone to look....where the A/C comes down at the male anchor chair.’
Craig Wolf: "I got an email back from my General Manager telling me thank you for the generous offer but we're going to try to tackle it ourselves.
Mike Mason: "Did they?"
Craig Wolf: "I didn't see it."
On March 3, 2011 Wolf says the General Manager told him his contract was not being renewed and he was not told why.
Craig Wolf: "I was stunned and I was shocked but after spending a little bit of time thinking about it I wasn't surprised."
Craig Wolf now lives with his family in Nashville, Tennessee but says he never wanted to leave Southwest Florida. Wolf says he's looking for another job in television but it's difficult because of what happened to him at Waterman.