The most consequential pair of stories I ever wrote.
PP&L Fires Newly Rehired Ex-President
June 8, 1978
Pacific Power and Light, one of Portland's two major electric suppliers, fired president John Y. Lansing for misuse of the company plane. It was hard not to feel sorry for him; he was commuting to a distant city where he wife was being treated for cancer. But still, he was convicted of a misdemeanor and fined $1,000. They rehired him in "secret" at his old salary to head the subsidiary of a subsidiary. I wish I could say it was brilliant reporting, but my editor was a shareholder, and he threw the K1 on my desk and said, "check out this footnote." It was the only public notification of Lansing's rehiring. My May 15 front-page story caught the attention of Oregon's Public Utility commissioner Charles Davis, who pushed PP&L to refire Lansing. I had Lansing's home phone number; his comment was "fuck you," which I rendered as "had no publishable comment," which was, in turn, edited down to "not available for comment."
For a long time, I worried that I had ruined a man's life, then realized he ruined it himself when he decided not to be up front about his use of the company plane, and again when he "snuck" back onto the PP&L payroll, at his old salary in a do-nothing job.