MONCTON, N.B. - Two senior editors at a New Brunswick newspaper are no longer with the company after an internal ethics probe alleged one of them visited a government-owned fishing lodge and both tried to alter a guest list to remove his name before it was made public, the ombudswoman for the chain of papers owned by Brunswick News Inc. says.
In a column published online Monday on the company's CanadaEast website, Patricia Graham says Murray Guy, assistant managing editor at the Times and Transcript in Moncton, has resigned and Al Hogan, the paper's managing editor, is no longer employed by Brunswick News.
Graham says John Wishart is now editor of the Telegraph-Journal's editorial and opinion pages after serving as the paper's editor.
The changes come after an investigation alleged Guy went to the Larry's Gulch fishing lodge in 2013 as a guest of Danny Allain, then-president and CEO of NB Liquor, says Graham, the ombudsman for Brunswick News.
She alleges that Guy misled the company by insisting he had not gone to the lodge, and that Guy and Hogan tried to have a deputy minister of communications in former premier David Alward's government change the guest list before releasing it to the media.
"They sought to have an official government document altered and to manipulate the public record," Graham asserts.
"Their actions were unethical. They were the two senior newsroom managers at the Times and Transcript. They have damaged the credibility of their newspaper and of Brunswick News."
Wishart and Guy did not respond to requests for interviews. A telephone number could not be found for Hogan.
Brunswick News publishes the Telegraph-Journal based in Saint John, the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, the Times and Transcript and several smaller newspapers.
The recent investigation, led by Brunswick News editor-in-chief Patrick Brethour, was prompted after a media outlet asked whether Guy had visited the lodge, the paper was aware of it and suppressed a story.
Graham says it was learned that Shawn Berry, a reporter for the Telegraph-Journal at the time, obtained a copy of a guest list for Larry's Gulch in October 2013. The paper had published six stories between 1999 and 2013 on such lists.
Berry, who is now press secretary to Premier Brian Gallant, told Wishart that Guy's name was on the list, Graham says.
Berry could not be reached for comment.
Wishart emailed Hogan to ask him to look into whether Guy had gone to the lodge, saying "attending such a trip would have been ethically problematic" and that Guy was not assigned to go to the fishing lodge in 2013 for work, Graham writes.
It is against journalistic standards to accept gifts from government or government agencies as it calls into question journalistic impartiality when it comes to covering either NB Liquor or the government, Graham says.
She says Hogan told Wishart that Guy's inclusion on the list "was a mistake and he had not in fact gone to the lodge." But Graham says Berry discovered that he had gone to the lodge and had signed a waiver consenting to the release of information saying so.
Graham says the information was passed from Berry to Wishart and then onto Jamie Irving, the vice-president and publisher of Brunswick News. They discussed discipline and whether to write a story.
Wishart decided not to write a story and told Hogan to discipline Guy, says Graham, adding that Wishart assumed that had been done, but Hogan said he received no such instruction.
Graham says the paper should have done a story on Guy's presence at the lodge, particularly since Brunswick News had fought in 2012 to force the government to release the list.
Brunswick News is continuing to make inquiries and has asked for additional guest lists from the government.
"Mr. Guy says that he visited the lodge once before, in 2008, and he understood he had the blessing of the senior management at the time," says Graham. "This has not yet been confirmed. We don't yet have all the guest lists from years past or for 2014, but we will be endeavouring to get them."
Guy Gallant, director of communications for premier Gallant, says the province is reviewing the accuracy of guest lists for Larry's Gulch and looking at privacy concerns before releasing them.
"For the years 2013 and 2014, the individuals who attended Larry's Gulch signed waivers of acknowledgement that their names would be released pursuant to Right to Information requests," he says in a statement released on Monday.
He says prior to 2013, some people might raise privacy concerns as waivers were not obtained for the lists, although the list for 2012 was released after a ruling by the Access to Information and Privacy Commissioner.
"Further complicating this matter are accusations that some of these documents might have been altered prior to their release in 2013. Given this, our government needs to ensure that any documents released are accurate and comprehensive."
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said only one editor is alleged to have tried to remove an editor's name from a guest list at the fishing lodge.