FORT MYERS — Editor's note: Craig Wolf settled his lawsuit with Waterman Broadcasting of Florida in October 2012. Wolf's lawyer, Charles PT Phoenix of Fort Myers, said only that the settlement was confidential and Wolf was satisfied with it.
Former NBC-2 anchor Craig Wolf has returned to Southwest Florida to work in the real estate industry in Collier and Lee counties.
Wolf, 58, who moved into a South Fort Myers condo a week ago, earned a real estate license under his real name, Wolfsfeld, and is working for Royal Shell Real Estate.
"I've gladly moved on with my life and I'm looking forward to a great career in real estate and life in Florida," Wolf said, adding that he'd dabbled in real estate as a homeowner and investor since 1993. "This is home, so I got back last month. Real estate is about helping people and having ties to the community and that really is the main thing that drew me into TV news."
After losing his job with Waterman Broadcasting of Florida in March, Wolf moved to Nashville, Tenn., where he has family, because his contract's noncompete clause prohibited him from being an anchorman at other local stations until Aug. 31.
Meanwhile, Waterman has denied his lawsuit's claims that he was fired for being a whistle-blower and reporting hazardous workplace conditions to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in October 2010.
"Craig's contract was fully honored," said Steve Pontius, Waterman executive vice president and general manager. "We just chose not to renew the contract."
He declined further comment and Waterman's attorney, John Nolan of Fort Myers, said his firm's policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation.
In its answer and affirmative defenses filed March 28 in Lee Circuit Court, Waterman denied firing Wolf, saying it had decided not to renew his contract before learning he'd filed an OSHA complaint.
"(The) reasons for that decision were not only lawful and legitimate, but relatively common reasons in the industry, and the decision was prompted, in part, on advice from an independent and leading authority in the industry and market research conducted by that authority," the station's affirmative defenses state.
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Charles PT Phoenix of Fort Myers, Wolf's lawyer, said only that the case is now in the discovery stage, when lawyers exchange evidence. Court records filed June 29 show Waterman was asked to respond to Wolf's allegations and turn over records.
"It's a slow process, I know, but I'm patient and I'm going to see it through," Wolf said. "I was contacted by numerous employees, current and former, who shared their stories with me and told me they were sick in the building as well."
Wolf sued in February, accusing Waterman of violating the Florida Whistle-blower Act by firing him after 18 years. He alleged that since his 1993 hiring, the studio and newsroom were unclean, greasy and caked with dust, dirt and cosmetic residue. By 2006, he alleged, an uncontrollable cough began affecting his ability to present the news and became chronic a year later. In 2009, he told Waterman executives it was causing viewers to comment. He said he and employees were convinced his "hacking cough" was caused by the "unclean and toxic environment" and he asked that it be examined and cleaned.
But he got no response, he said, and his cough worsened, prompting him to see doctors, take medications and contact OSHA. This February, after complaining again, Pontius told employees Waterman would be doing spring cleaning. A month later, Wolf was told his contract, which expired in August, wasn't being renewed, effective immediately.
Waterman contends it immediately responded to his concerns and authorized routine cleanup and renovations, but none involved removing "known toxic or hazardous materials."
"In fact, independent air-quality testing had demonstrated that the air quality in the studio and newsroom was comfortably within normal ranges," Waterman's answer said, noting it responded to OSHA, which closed its file without an on-site visit because there was no reason to take action.