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She is suing King for unpaid wages, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties, and dissolution of the company. Her grounds for these grievances are that King "acted with willful misconduct and in conscious disregard for the best interests of the Corporation." She also accuses King of "sexually harassing office staff," "appearing at the office obviously under the influence of alcohol," and "recklessly publishing materials under circumstances more likely than not to embroil the Corporation in needless and potentially costly litigation." She is requesting damages no less than $100,000.
King says he has "no idea what she's talking about" regarding the sexual harassment charge. As for the drinking, he says the two of them would sometimes sit around the office, drink wine, and brainstorm. "She's the one who brought the wine," he insists. "But did I come in plastered and start ordering people around at 3:00 p.m.? No."
In his formal response to the suit, King has denied all of these allegations. He countersued, averring that Carpenter, among other things, drove away advertisers and lured part-time Grover employees away -- to join the Coconut Grove Times, of course.
Neither Carpenter nor her attorney Paul Schwiep would comment on the pending suit. In the meantime Carpenter is putting the finishing touches on the June issue of her crisply designed publication and forging ahead with her vision of what a Coconut Grove newspaper should be all about.
"My goal is to have responsible journalism," Carpenter says. "There's a lot of controversy that can be found in the Grove. We're not going to shy away from it, but we'll be reporting both sides, speaking with both sides, getting the facts."
Her inaugural issue is a twenty-four-page affair on high-quality white paper with eight pages of color photography and slightly more than eleven pages of ads. The May issue of the Grover, on its customary newsprint, weighed in at forty pages, with six four-color pages and some nineteen pages of ads. The subject matter of the publications -- city news briefs, business stories, festival announcements -- overlaps quite a bit, though King's contains more opinion columns (including his own).
King's assessment of his competition? "If plagiarism is the highest form of flattery, I'm very flattered," he sneers. "I didn't know I was that good."
Though King has said he wants to preserve the greater efficiency Carpenter instituted, he continues to assert his own independent editorial voice in the Grover. When it comes to King's "Eye on the Grove" column, that voice is as strident as ever. In the current issue, King lashes out at an off-duty cop at Johnny Rockets who "hits on girls all night," refers to the recently resigned Port of Miami chief Carmen Lunetta as "our personal mobster," and states that Miami City Commissioner Humberto Hernandez has three distinct identities: He's Humberto to Hispanic voters, Bert to Anglo voters, and "Big Jive Bert" to black voters.
And, of course, there's the Bruno photo.
Once Carpenter and King joined forces at the Grover, King granted Carpenter control over the paper's social pages. Her influence showed most tellingly in the prevalence of pictures of her boyfriend. "You'd see Bruno shaking hands, Bruno smiling, Bruno passing a check or something, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno," Glenn Terry recites.
That trend has continued in her own publication. The "Social Life" column of the May issue contains a photo of Carnesella blowing out the candles on his birthday cake; the accompanying text cooingly refers to him as "my favorite Italian."
Even with Carpenter gone, Carnesella still appears in the May issue of the Grover, but in a far less flattering light. A picture -- snapped by King himself -- shows a disheveled Bruno staring blankly into the camera with a cigarette dangling from his lips, his shirt open, and a woman who isn't Carpenter snuggling up beside him.
King bristles at the suggestion that the photo is a stab at his former partner. "If I wanted to go out there and take unflattering pictures, there is no one in this community I couldn't do that to," King huffs. "It wasn't set up. It was a party I was invited to, and he sat there and looked like that."
Carpenter frostily asserts that the photo is indeed a personal attack on her. "I think that was his intent, and that's how it was perceived by the community," she murmurs. "It's indicative of his style."
While these two are locked in legal and editorial combat, the Grove looks on with a mixture of bemusement and rue.
Cocoanut Grove Village Council chairman Tucker Gibbs, a perennial punching bag for King, is circumspect about the duel. "To me, it shows there's a lot of room for discussion of issues that affect the Grove," he says. (Gibbs's wife Mary Ann wrote several articles and an opinion column for the first issue of the Times and is listed as a staff writer.)
Billy Rolle, executive director of the annual Goombay Festival and another frequent King target, sees the papers as two sides of the same coin: forums for those who want to develop the West Grove without regard to its current residents. "They all come through here -- judges, lawyers, corporate folk, academia," Rolle says, referring to Grand Avenue between McDonald Street and Douglas Road. "They want to fix it up for the people who are coming through."