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Key West Citizen ousts its publisher and controller

The Key West Citizen, the island’s only six-day-a-week newspaper, cleaned house Monday by firing its top two administrators.
The Key West Citizen, the island’s only six-day-a-week newspaper, cleaned house Monday by firing its top two administrators. FLKeysNews.com

The publisher of the Key West Citizen, the island’s six-day-a-week newspaper, and the controller were fired Monday, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The controller, Paul Donnelly, was escorted out of the paper’s building at 3420 Northside Dr. by Key West police officers hired by the company as a paid detail. Publisher Paul Clarin was not in the building Monday.

No arrests were made and State Attorney Dennis Ward said his office is not investigating anything at the paper, which recently began outsourcing its printing to the Miami Herald and did away with the Sunday paper months ago.

Thomas Kent Cooke, president of Cooke Communications Florida, and his brother John Kent Cooke, Jr. are handling the “daily operation of the newspapers” for the time being.

The Citizen reported about the new management Wednesday in their newspaper, but didn’t mention the departures of Clarin and Donnelly. They called the change a “reorganization.”

The paper is owned by Cooke Communications, which is based in North Carolina. Human resources personnel from North Carolina were in the office last week interviewing staff.

Thomas Kent Cooke returned a message Wednesday afternoon to say the paper was “restructuring” but wouldn’t say why and added his brother, John Kent, was the acting publisher now.

Clarin made a vague Facebook post about Monday evening, tagging Donnelly in the post.

“Sharing emancipation day with two of my dear friends,” it read.

Clarin was the corporate chief financial officer of Cooke Communications Florida from 2001 to 2009, when he was made publisher of the Citizen, succeeding Cooke Jr.

The Key West Police Department sent a two-person detail team, at $50-an-hour each, to the paper on Monday from 2:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Both Clarin and Donnelly declined to comment.

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