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CBS ousts L.A., Chicago station managers after misconduct probe

The Broadcast Center Building on the CBS Studios Center in Studio City.
The Broadcast Center Building on the CBS Studios Center lot in Studio City.
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

In a sweeping shake-up, CBS has ousted two senior managers responsible for its television stations in Los Angeles and Chicago.

Jay Howell, general manager of KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KCAL-TV Channel 9 in Los Angeles; and Derek Dalton, the head of WBBM-TV Channel 2 in Chicago, were ousted Thursday after a six-month investigation into alleged wrongdoing within CBS’ stations group.

The moves extend a dramatic management makeover at CBS News and the network’s stations division after a Los Angeles Times investigation uncovered alleged misconduct, racism and misogyny at a handful of CBS-owned stations.

In April, CBS tossed out Peter Dunn, the head of its flagship New York station, who also had led the group of 28 CBS-owned TV stations for more than a decade. The company also ended the employment of one of Dunn’s top lieutenants, David Friend, who was responsible for the chain’s news operations. Both men have denied wrongdoing.

CBS on Thursday did not disclose the reasons behind Howell’s and Dalton’s departures but acknowledged the moves were related to an external investigation that has been underway since The Times’ report in late January.

“The investigation cited painful revelations about experiences that we cannot tolerate today or in the future,” CBS Chief Executive George Cheeks wrote in an email to staff members Thursday, announcing the end of the review and leadership changes in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

The Times’ series shined a harsh light on an often overlooked corner of the company that lacks the prestige of the CBS television network but remains a vital source of local news for millions of Americans.

CBS’ stations in Los Angeles have been beset by turnover for years. Current and former employees have long complained about the harsh workplace culture, which they allege has been rife with sexual harassment, favoritism, pay discrimination and ageism.

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In the last five years, KCBS has been led by two general managers and three news directors. Last year, Howell navigated the L.A. stations through at least two rounds of corporately mandated staff cuts, resulting in the departures of high-profile anchors Jeff Michael and Sandra Mitchell and meteorologist Garth Kemp.

Workplace complaints have festered for years. In 2018, CBS paid a settlement to former KCAL anchor Leyna Nguyen after she complained to KCBS management about inappropriate comments and unwanted touching by a male colleague, according to several people familiar with the matter.

In separate high-profile incident, described in a 2019 story in The Times, popular sports anchor Jill Arrington was denied a salary increase after she learned she was making $60,000 a year less than her male predecessor.

Then-station manager Steve Mauldin allegedly told Arrington in 2018 to “put on a tennis dress.... We’ll put you on tape, and you can make some extra money.” Mauldin denied making the remark.

A Times investigation uncovers claims of discrimination, retaliation and other forms of mistreatment at CBS-owned TV stations, including L.A. outlets.


Mauldin retired in 2019, and Howell was brought in as L.A.'s general manager after leading CBS’ station in Pittsburgh. He was tasked with modernizing the L.A. stations.

Howell could not be immediately reached for comment.

CBS manages KCBS and KCAL jointly, and the stations’ audience lags in size behind market leaders KABC-TV Channel 7, KNBC-TV Channel 4 and Spanish-language stations KMEX-TV Channel 34 and KVEA-TV Channel 52.

Despite their ratings woes, KCBS and KCAL have been an important source of revenue for the company, particularly during last year’s election, according to internal documents shared with The Times.

Thursday’s moves complete CBS’ management makeover.

In April, the company combined CBS News and the TV stations group into one division led jointly by former Hearst newspaper and cable executive Neeraj Khemlani and Wendy McMahon, former head of ABC’s television stations group.

This month, CBS installed journalist Johnny Green Jr. to run WCBS-TV Channel 2 in New York.

CBS also named veteran local television and news executive Adrienne Roark as incoming president of the CBS stations group, beginning Aug. 2.

“This is just a start — our first steps,” Cheeks said in his note.

A Times review of court filings, CBS’ internal communications and interviews with two dozen current and former CBS television station employees found that many were troubled by the outcome of the investigation and questioned the company’s commitment to cleaning up its culture.

Dalton had served as Chicago’s general manager since 2018.

Unrelated to the misconduct investigation, general managers in Dallas and Denver retired this year.

The Times reported in January that Dunn and Friend kept a tight grip on the operations of the far-flung stations group, cultivating an environment that included bullying female managers and blocking efforts to hire and retain Black journalists.

The articles focused on conditions at CBS’ station in Philadelphia. Former executives at KYW-TV Channel 3 alleged that Dunn made racist comments about Ukee Washington, the station’s beloved Black anchor, calling him “just a jive guy.”

Co-workers and community members rallied around the anchor, who is a distant cousin of actor Denzel Washington. Philadelphia’s City Council passed a resolution commending Washington for his “professionalism” and “outstanding work and service to the community.”

The Times’ series also raised questions about a $55-million purchase of a TV station on New York’s Long Island — the only station acquisition during Dunn’s 11-year tenure overseeing CBS’ station group. The 2011 deal came with privileges for Dunn and other high-level CBS executives at an ultra-exclusive golf club in the Hamptons, where they hobnobbed with billionaires, including the owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, Stephen Ross.

Journalists in New York alleged that Friend and other managers made news coverage decisions that neglected communities of color. The flagship WCBS station in New York — one of the nation’s most diverse cities — lacked a full-time Black male reporter until March 2020, the same month that Cheeks, who is biracial, took the reins at CBS.

After The Times’ reports, CBS hired attorney Keisha-Ann Gray of the Proskauer Rose law firm to conduct a widespread investigation into alleged workplace abuses within the station group. Gray and her associates spoke with dozens of current and former CBS employees, according to knowledgeable people.

“While the investigation largely looked at events in the past, and the issues revealed were more pronounced in certain areas and at specific stations than others, there are clear themes that we need to address moving forward,” Cheeks wrote.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion” need to be top priorities “for leadership in every corner of our Stations business,” Cheeks wrote. “Our workplace culture needs to measurably improve; and your trust needs to be restored with your CBS leaders.”

McMahon, in a separate email to staffers, wrote, “We will begin our search for new leaders in Los Angeles and Chicago immediately.”


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