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Illinois Editor Fired; Refused Drug Test

September 4, 1986

FREEPORT, Ill. (AP) _ The editor and chief photographer of the Freeport Journal-Standard said Thursday they were fired for refusing to take drug tests sought by the publisher.

Editor Greg Bean and photographer Richard Foertsch said they were dismissed Aug. 27, five days after a bartender commented in front of the afternoon daily’s publisher that Foertsch might have gone to ″cop a buzz″ when he left the bar.

Publisher Larry Shearer confirmed the dismissals, but would not discuss specifics, saying he had promised Bean and Foertsch he would not.

″We had a philosophical difference on managerial policy that couldn’t be resolved,″ Shearer said. ″We did not have differences of opinion as far as editorial policy or the direction of the newspaper is concerned.″

Bean said the three men met at a downtown hotel bar after work Aug. 22 to celebrate the newspaper’s winning five awards in an Illinois Press Association contest.

Foertsch slipped out, and Shearer asked where he had gone.

According to Bean, the bartender responded: ‴He could have gone to cop a buzz, for all I know.‴

″Larry looked at me and asked, ’Is there any truth to that?‴ said Bean. ″I told him absolutely not.″

Foertsch said Thursday he had gone to meet a date at a nearby bar and did not want to explain and take the ribbing that might ensue.

The following Monday, Bean said, Shearer told him he had made checks in the community and found others, whom he declined to identify, suspected drug use at the 18,500-circulation daily.

He asked Bean and Foertsch to join him in taking tests to put the rumors to rest.

Both objected, saying tests would violate their rights and that the newspaper should not respond to gossip.

″If there were related to job performance, maybe. But job performance was a moot point,″ said Bean. ″We were out celebrating a big win.″

He said discussions of the tests continued for three days. At one point he offered to take the tests if his personal physician could conduct them and the results would not be made public.

He said Shearer would not accept the compromise.

Asked if he had ever used marijuana or other drugs, Bean said, ″I grew up in the ’60s. I’m not an angel. But that was when I was 18, 19 and 20 years old. Now and for a great many years, absolutely not.″

Bean, 34, came to the Journal-Standard in March 1985 from the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune. He hired Foertsch, 31, with whom he had worked in Casper, last October. Foertsch was working for the Illinois House Democratic staff at the time.

Bean and his wife, Linda, who is a reporter at the paper, have three children.

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