Thursday, May 26, 2016

MI Radio: Johnny Burke Testifies About Cumulus Contract

Johnny Burke, Blondie
Former WHNN 96.1 FM radio morning show personality Johnny Burke was questioned on the witness stand in federal court for two hours Wednesday, May 25, kicking off proceedings for a counter-lawsuit by his former employee that argues he violated his employment contract, according to

Cumulus Media filed suits in April against Burke and his partner Blondie, whose real name is Bonnie Belger-Holzhei, saying the duo was in violation of non-compete and non-solicitation clauses in their employment agreements they entered into with Cumulus and/or Citadel Broadcasting. Cumulus wants a federal judge to issue an injunction barring the longtime radio hosts from hosting their internet radio show.

The countersuit comes after Burke, 61, and Belger-Holzhei, 53, filed an age-discrimination lawsuit against their former employer. Burke, who was the voice of the radio station for the past 25 years, and Belger-Holzhei were fired in January when the station underwent a format change. After being fired, they launched a live-streaming show online and on social media called Johnny and Blondie Live.

Following an hour-long, closed-door meeting Wednesday between U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Ludington, Saginaw attorney Victor Mastromarco Jr., who is representing Burke and Belger-Holzhei, and Birmingham attorney Thomas Paxton, who is representing Cumulus,  said the media company wouldn't pursue a non-compete violation lawsuit against Burke because the company would have been obligated to pay him six months of his $125,000 contracted salary. Paxton said the company would continue to pursue the non-compete violation part of the lawsuit against Belger-Holzhei, who received an annual salary of $31,200 while employed by WHNN, according to court documents.

Cumulus still contends, however, that Burke and Belger-Holzhei violated the non-solicitation clause in their employment agreements. Paxton, who argued Burke used WHNN's proprietary information and solicited former advertisers of the radio station for his new internet show, spent more than an hour questioning him about his knowledge of the prices advertisers paid WHNN for advertisement spots, use of a WHNN-branded Twitter handle, the publishing of specific photos on his internet show's webpage and comments he made to local media promoting his new show.

Burke later testified that his internet show has made less than $10,000 in revenue since launching in January.

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