The story I am about to share could literally make for a great Sawduster’s Melodrama. Our heroine is hardworking, self-taught, newspaper layout genius, ad maker, editor, copy editor and chain-smoking girl reporter, Donell Frazier. Our dastardly villain can, depending upon who she is talking to, portray herself as a soft-voiced, demure, white-haired grandmother to gravelly Ma Barker holding a peach brandy in one hand and a cigar in the other. Her name is Jean Ivey-Gurney.
This is really one for the “You cannot make this stuff up.” files of local fiascos and calamities.
Donell Frazier has been running a newspaper in Coquille off and on for several years. Variously, she has been an employee, volunteer and most recently the owner of The Coquille Sentinel.
Last summer Jean Ivey, the owner of The Sentinel, (she changed the name to just the Sentinel after allowing the name to lapse with the Secretary of State), approached Frazier to buy the paper from her. Darlene Andrews was present when the offer was made. Frazier had learned a lot and been putting out the paper, building ads and searching for content with little or no help from Ivey for quite awhile and decided it was worth working out the details to take over.
Now, Ivey has sold the paper at least three times previously. Once to Matt Hall, owner of the Myrtle Point Herald, another to Kathleen Dimmick and again to a young couple from out of the area. In the case of Matt Hall he may not have even realized he was purchasing the paper even though Ivey added his name to the masthead for weeks. Eventually, his name disappeared and Ivey’s returned.
In the other two cases, the deals fell through and the buyers left both poorer and warier.
Frazier has never owned a business before unless you include the 20% of the newspaper Ivey gifted her for Christmas in 2017, but she was confident she could keep doing what she’d been doing and make a go of the paper. Frazier accepted Ivey’s price of $45,000 but balked when Ivey wanted her to agree to accept a debt that Ivey incurred to the printer of over $17,000. Frazier explained that she just couldn’t accept a debt just starting off. Typically, debts reduce the value of the purchase price.
Ivey was getting married to retired rancher Don Gurney at the end of the month and was eager to unload the paper. She prepared a contract without the liability to the printer and a rental agreement. Frazier would pay Ivey $600 per month for the space at 61 E First St and commencing February 1, 2020, would pay $200 per month toward the purchase price.
The commencement date was August 8, 2019 and the sale included…”all permits, contracts, legal control, all equipment necessary to produce a paper…” Frazier formed Frazier Media, LLC and reserved the assumed business name “Coquille Sentinel” to return the 100+ year old paper to its original name.
Almost immediately, Frazier began to have problems with Ivey. First, Ivey promised to add Frazier to the bank account but for weeks she missed appointments to meet at the bank all the while money generated by Frazier was being deposited into the account. Ivey even complained to Frazier that she wasn’t paying bills on time but Frazier had no access to the funds she was generating. Frazier finally opened her own account in the paper’s name while Ivey closed out the previous account, paid her step-daughter, Daniece Gurney $800 and pocketed the rest.
Nonetheless, Frazier dutifully put out a paper every week, paid her bills, the printer and paid Ivey rent each month. Now Jean Ivey-Gurney, Don Gurney, her new husband would often come by to collect the rent check on the 15th of the month.
All was well until the printer, Cascade Printing & Design out of Pocatello, Idaho finally located Ivey-Gurney at her new home and with her new name demanding payment.
Ivey-Gurney goes “ballistic”, according to Frazier and accuses her of giving the printer her contact information. Frazier denies this but Ivey-Gurney uses this to claim that Frazier is now out of compliance with the purchase contract and goes so far as to create another contract using the signatures from the original contract to add in a line “buyer to assume existing debt and income.”
Ivey-Gurney takes the doctored version of this contract to Frazier’s office. Frazier was busy working on the paper to meet a print deadline so when Ivey-Gurney leans her face right down in front of her, close enough to smell her breath, and slams down a copy of the doctored contract Frazier pushes it aside without looking.
“I’m going to take copies of this all over town and show you are a liar,” Ivey-Gurney yelled in front of both staff and customers in the office.
“Go ahead,” Frazier replied, not having read the new version. “Jean, you need to leave, I am trying to get this paper out.”
In what can only be described as a scene from America’s Dumbest Criminals, Ivey-Gurney did leave but left the “original” of the fraudulent contract in the copier to be discovered the next day. The fake is so bad it even shows the imprint of some figures Ivey-Gurney had written down on the real contract.
Meanwhile, Frazier had the locks to the office changed because, according to Frazier, Ivey-Gurney’s son, Paul Reconzone, was coming in at night without permission and using newspaper assets, making copies, etc… without payment. Ivey-Gurney was later provided with a key to the new locks but not before someone attempted to break into the office damaging the door frame.
Forensic testing of documents is pretty straight forward and easy to detect a fraud. Possibly realizing this, Ivey-Gurney now tries to pressure Frazier to sign a new contract. She sends an email to Frazier telling her to meet her at the bank and sign a new contract. Frazier asks to see the contract which is now up to $62K and change and includes additions like Ivey-Gurney retaining ownership of the periodical permit necessary to mail the papers to the subscribers. In the accompanying email, she claims that Matt Hall is willing to accept the terms of the new contract if Donell doesn’t want to sign.
Frazier refuses, telling Ivey-Gurney… “We already have a contract in place so I will not be meeting you at the bank this morning, nor will I be signing your latest creation. I will instead be giving it to my lawyer.”
Ivey-Gurney replies “OK… here we go.”
On January 15, Frazier receives a letter from Ivey-Gurney telling her that the insurance carrier has deemed the office unsafe for commercial use and she must vacate by January 20. However, when I asked Ivey-Gurney via email why she evicted Frazier on such short notice she said, “She changed the locks on my building without notifying me or supplying me with a key, no access to the building in case of emergency.”
Frazier scrambles to be out of the building by the 20th and still puts out a paper and honors her agreements with her advertisers.
Frazier has been mailing out papers to her subscriber list since she took over in August. Part of the sales agreement was that the periodical permit would transfer to Frazier Medica, LLC. Receipts from the post office clearly show the permit under Frazier Media, LLC with Donell Frazier as the contact. Nonetheless, Ivey-Gurney goes to the Coquille Post Office to speak with the postmaster, Karen Kibbee and tells her that Frazier is in default of her contract. Kibbee elects to freeze all mail and will not allow Frazier Media to mail out under the existing permit, claiming the permit was never fully transferred despite the notice on the receipts.
TWO COQUILLE NEWSPAPERS?!
Ivey-Gurney has also told Karen Kibbee that she plans to publish a paper, The Sentinel, this week and will be using her old periodical permit. Frazier Media intends to publish The Coquille Sentinel this week so if nothing else, the public will have an opportunity to compare the work product of two very different editors/publishers