Marcus and Jimmy Chunga, partners the past few years on one of Salt Lake's most popular morning radio teams, are now on opposite ends of a defamation lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in 3rd District Court by Mark McCaleb, aka "Marcus," also sheds light on the speculation circling recently among radio listeners about why McCaleb was fired two months ago by "The End" KENZ, 107.5 FM.According to the lawsuit, McCaleb was fired by the station owners, Citadel Broadcasting, after McCaleb was accused of being intoxicated and engaging in inappropriate sexual activity on a cruise the station sponsored for listeners in September. In the suit, McCaleb says the accusations that while on the cruise he was drunk, engaged in sex with underage girls and participated in a 30-person orgy are false and unfounded.
McCaleb said that following that event, "The Cruise of Dreams," he was asked to take a week off. When returning to work, he was fired for his alleged behavior on the cruise. "Marcus" had worked with KENZ for about three years, as the morning show sidekick. He also did the morning news reports.
"Defendant Citadel conducted no investigation into these claims and never attempted to obtain plaintiff's side of the story," the suit says.
McCaleb says the accusations were spread to station staff and to listeners by his former co-disc jockey Brett Smith, aka "Jimmy Chunga," and station promotions director Rick Pollack with actual malice and with the intent of damaging his reputation.
"(McCaleb) is a public figure and his livelihood depends on his public image," the suits says.
"The End" is an alternative rock station, geared for young adults. It started Jan. 1, 1996 as a breakoff from KXRK. KENZ is the No. 1 rated Wasatch Front radio station for listeners, ages 18-34, according to the latest Arbitron estimates. For listeners of all ages, the station ranks fifth.
The "Jimmy Chunga" morning show is also the most-listened-to morning radio show for listeners, ages 18-34, and ranks ninth among listeners of all ages. The station replaced "Marcus" on its morning show Monday with "Mister West," who was the station's Saturday night disc jockey.
"We terminated Marcus McCaleb's contract only after careful consideration of his rights and the best interests of the station," Citadel of Salt Lake Vice President/General Manager Eric Hauenstein stated in a press release. "We are confident that the action was legal, fair and necessary under the circumstances. We regret that Mr. McCaleb has seen fit to sue his former colleagues, but we will stand behind them. Their conduct has been highly professional and beyond reproach."
Smith told the Deseret News he couldn't comment on the lawsuit for obvious reasons. Pollack could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit seeks $25,000 in punitive damages, an amount to be determined at trial for breach of contract, and more than $100,000 in damages for the defamation claims against the station, Smith and Pollack. McCaleb also seeks a court order compelling the station to participate in immediate arbitration on no-competition issues related to his contract and termination.
Citadel also operates KBEE-FM, KBEE-AM, KFNZ, KUBL, KWUN, and KBER. Nationwide, the Phoenix-based company operates almost 100 radio stations.