It’s been almost 14 months since KNBR fired Ralph Barbieri, and he has been away from the airwaves for almost as long. But based on the conversation I had with Angela Alioto on Monday, we haven’t heard the last from him. Alioto is representing Barbieri in a wrongful termination lawsuit, and a trial date and location have been set: Sept. 9 in San Francisco Superior Court.
Cumulus CEO Lewis W. Dickey, Jr. and his brother John have given depositions, and Co-Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Pinch is slated to give one soon. But Cumulus execs aren’t the only ones being asked to provide their side of the story. KNBR employees have also been deposed in recent weeks, including Program Director Lee Hammer, Asst. Program Director Jenn Violet Kennedy, former Cumulus VP / Market Manager Bill Bungeroth, and Babieri’s former co-host.
“Tom Tolbert is one of the best friends a human being could ever have,” said Alioto. “Amazing human being. Amazing guy.”
Gary Radnich is scheduled to give a deposition this week.
Five months before Cumulus escorted him out of the building, Barbieri announced he was dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. His doctor said the following at the time:
“He’s hardly changed over five years (of treatment),” said Dr. Brian Bouch, medical director of Hill Park Medical Center in Petaluma. Bouch is an integrative-medicine specialist. “The disease has been very, very slow progressing, partly because of his treatment. … As we’ve seen with (former U.S. Attorney General) Janet Reno, people with Parkinson’s who are in public professions can function and do really well.”
Since Barbieri and his public profession were forcibly separated, Alioto says his health has gotten worse.
“He’s doing fine, considering the circumstances. Stress can make the disease itself take over your body.” Alioto said. “The termination was so devastating. It’s affecting him … you would now notice that he has Parkinson’s.”
Barbieri’s condition, along with his physical and emotional response to getting fired, are key to his case against Cumulus. However, his declining health doesn’t necessarily mean he’s bed-ridden or ignoring the sports he used to cover on KNBR. Barbieri and his son attended one of the Warriors’ recent playoff games, and he also took Alioto to a Sharks playoff game, where she was frightened by “those guys banging in the wall right in front of me.”
Barbieri’s deposition wasn’t as scary as seeing a hockey player getting slammed into the glass at close range, but it was far more time-consuming. In total, it took four days to complete.
“Dear lord, the man can talk all day. That’s why he’s good at what he did,” Alioto said. She backed the latter sentence with quite a bit of evidence which surely will be repeated if the case indeed goes to trial, including Barbieri’s 28 years at KNBR and his accomplishments during that time. One such achievement Alioto mentioned: the time after Buster Posey’s season-ending injury in 2011,when San Francisco Giants General Manager Brian Sabean made a few choice comments about Scott Cousins on “The Razor and Mr. T” that were picked up by major news outlets throughout the country.
“KNBR does not have national news stories. KNBR doesn’t have a lot of people that are in the (Bay Area) Radio Hall of Fame. Ralph’s in the Radio Hall of Fame. The lack of recognition the Dickey brothers have given Ralph the person, and 28 years of talk radio, it’s stunning for me,” she said.
Anyone who’s listened to Barbieri badger guests (like Sabean) over the years had to figure he’d make life miserable for the corporation that tossed him aside shortly after signing him to a one-year extension. But filing a lawsuit and actually going to trial are two completely different things. I asked Alioto about the chances of both sides coming to a settlement, and she brushed aside that idea.
“The trial is really close now,” she said.
Baseball pennant races and the start of the NFL season may not be the only sports-related happenings for Bay Area fans to pay attention to in September. Barbieri’s trial will be open to the public.