A source inside LEO Weekly says the publication’s two remaining full-time editorial staffers walked out following a meeting this morning with new owner Aaron Yarmuth.
Those employees — music and culture editor Peter Berkowitz and news editor Joe Sonka — were asked to sign new employment contracts during the meeting but declined. Both employees reportedly voiced concerns over the inability to get the paper out with such a small staff, which was gutted during a round of layoffs on Friday, the day Yarmuth finalized the purchase of LEO from Nashville-based SouthComm.
LEO editor Sara Havens and staff writer April Corbin were laid off, along with a classified sales employee and events/marketing coordinator.
Today’s meeting reportedly started with Yarmuth laying out plans for the future but quickly devolved. Our source says Joe Sonka indicated the new working conditions were unacceptable; he then outlined specific terms that must be met before he signs any contract to continue his employment: 1) hire two additional editorial staffers within two weeks; 2) hire a third editorial staffer within two months; 3) hire a sales manager to help boost revenue; and 4) fire LEO publisher David Brennan to help pay for the aforementioned hires.
We’re told Berkowitz reiterated that it would be almost impossible to put out a paper with two, much less one, editorial staffer. At the conclusion of the meeting, which lasted around two hours, our source says Yarmuth told both Berkowitz and Sonka that he would relay this information to his fellow LEO Weekly investor (whom has not been identified) and get back to them as soon as possible.
Both Berkowitz and Sonka left LEO’s offices this morning and are not currently employed by the company, according to our source, though that is subject to change depending on Yarmuth’s response.
We also have learned that former LEO accountant/HR employee Shauna Tolotti left her position several weeks ago and was not replaced.
The publication is scheduled to go to press tomorrow afternoon.
We’ll let you know as we learn more.