Risk & Compliance

Paper Fires Entire Accounting Department

Newsroom staffers moved on, but the paychecks kept coming.
Stephen Taub and Dave CookApril 18, 2007

The Chicago Defender, a venerable weekly newspaper, has fired its entire accounting department after discovering a fraudulent payroll scheme, according to Editor & Publisher.

The four-person accounting staff was reportedly terminated for issuing and cashing checks made out to two former newsroom employees over the course of two months.

Though police officers were at the Defender offices on Monday, E&P noted, a police department spokesman told the paper he not yet seen any paperwork regarding an investigation or arrests.

According to the report, all checks at the Defender — “the voice of the African-American Community in Chicago and across the United States” — are issued by parent company Real Times, which also publishes the Michigan Chronicle, the Michigan Front Page, the New Pittsburgh Courier, and the Tri-State Defender.

“I’m trying to figure how the corporate CFO didn’t realize [the former staffers were] no longer with the company,” a Defender employee told E&P. “This is not a large company. There are 12 or 14 people in the newsroom — and maybe 30 in the whole Chicago Defender.

Carol E. Bell, listed on the Chicago Defender website as executive director of finance, could not immediately be reached for comment. Brit Cox, chief financial officer of Detroit-based Real Times Media, also could not immediately be reached for comment.