Entercom Market Manager Grilled

September 29, 2009

John Geary, market manager of Entercom Sacramento, answered questions today about his role or lack thereof in the water drinking death of Jennifer Strange at KDND, one of six stations he was managing for Entercom Communications in Sacramento at the time of the contest in 2007.

Plaintiff attorney Roger Dreyer went over the Contest Guidelines provided by Entercom, and established that station managers could give the rules to their on air talent, but were not required to do so.    Regarding implementation of the rules, Geary stated regarding his employees, station manager Steve Weed and Promotions Director Robin Pechota, "Both of them failed."  

While the guidelines stated that anything beyond a simple contest must be okayed by the legal department, and Geary said he would expect his people to evaluate the danger of a contest before going to Legal, Dreyer established that there were no requirements in writing that staff should do any such research.   In fact, producer Liz Diaz's testimony was that the day after the water drinking death, she googled drinking too much water and instantly learned about the danger of water intoxication.    Dreyer further established from Legal Department Attorney Carmela Masi's testimony that while Masi said she had a rule that any contest involving ingestion or physicality should employ medical personnel, she had not put that in the written training provided to Entercom employees.  Geary said he was unaware such a rule existed.   He admitted they had every opportunity to put that rule into writing.

Questioning then focused on Promotion Manager Robin Pechota's testimony that she had gone to Geary on numerous occasions, complaining that the Morning Rave staff was not complying with rules.  Geary responded that she had complained about rules that had to do with which giveaways to do on certain days, not contests.  Geary said he asked station manager Steve Weed to have meetings to control the Morning Rave staff.  Pechota testfied the meetings did nothing to get them to follow rules.   Dreyer asked Geary whether he had ever asked Weed to give contest rules to the Morning Rave staff, given Pechota's frustration with them;  he said he had not.    

Geary said Masi was very busy, and that he would intervene should the promotions director not get a call back from Masi, as happened on occasion.  

Geary testified he had been in radio before deregulation, and that prior to 1997, he had been called a VP, and was in charge of two stations.  In 1997, his title shifted to market manager, and he was in charge of running six radio stations.  As a result, his duties were expanded, and he could no longer keep up with day to day detailed management of staff.  He is no longer in charge of contests, and has no knowledge of them.  Dreyer established that Geary oversaw eight different departments and that Masi in Boston oversaw contests. 

Geary then restated that Masi had not communicated the ingestion/physicality rule to him, that he did not know of it nor did he ask.

Geary's attorney Doug Sullivan took over the questioning.   When asked whether Geary peronally gets involved in the planning of contests, Geary stated, "That's not what the company wants me to be doing in my position."  Sullivan detailed for the jury the eight departments that Geary oversaw, as well as the 130 employees he was supervising, and painted a picture of a very busy business manager who could not personally oversee all aspects of six radio stations.  The overarching theme was that contest production was delegated to the station manager and the promotions director, not to the market manager.

Geary testified he had never seen the written rules for the Wii contest, and that it was the responsibility of Weed and Pechota to clear contests though Legal.  He testified as to Weed's 40 years radio experience, and Pechota's decade of experience, and said he'd never had a complaint about either of them creating a dangerous contest before the January 12 Wii contest.

He testified that on the two occasions he had heard about contests, he had heard from the parent company attorney Masi, not from Weed or Pechota.  He said that was part of the process at Entercom, that any contest that was not a "simple contest" be approved by legal.  He said Pechota and Weed had been trained in contest guidlelines by Masi.

Geary told Dreyer, on redirect, that it was clear to him that the Wii contest was not a simple contest, and that statin manager Steve Weed failed becasue he had not supervised Pechota.  Yet producer Liz Diaz was also fired, although she was not responsible for putting together contests and had no training in that area.  Dreyer established that none of the on air staff ever received any training on contests, and that Geary did not mandate they get training, although he could have mandated that.

Geary said he did not know who oversaw the Wii Contest, that he trusted Weed and Pechota, his experienced managers.  Dreyer asked if it were clear to Geary that the Wii contest was not a "simple contest," and Geary said clearly it was not.  

Dreyer asked about Pechota's testimony that she had complained the Morning Rave staff lacked judgment and were juvenile, Geary did remember those complaints.  When asked if he'd asked Masi to do training with the Morning Rave staff as a result, he said he had not.

When asked if there was a breakdown of communication between Entercom Corporation and his staff regarding contests, Geary stated, "I know the message was given, but their ability to understand that message didn't happen."  But Geary said he did not know why.

Plaintiff Attorney Harvey Levine then established that there was no training whatever on what to do should a contestant become ill, not from Masi at the corporate level or anyone else.

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