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Newspaper Criticizes Its Executive For Keeping Mum About Rape Report

May 15, 1991

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ The Tampa Tribune on its editorial page criticized its president and general manager for failing to tell the newspaper about a reported rape at his home last month.

James Urbanski was chided in a lead editorial Tuesday that also accused officials of trying to cover up the story because the young men involved come from prominent families.

It noted the executive’s silence in the nine days between the alleged April 27 attack and May 6, when it was first reported on local television.

Edwin A. Roberts Jr., the Tribune’s editorials editor, said Wednesday he wanted to assure readers the newspaper did nothing to suppress the story.

″Our credibility was at stake and we wanted to make clear this was not something we sat on,″ Roberts said. ″The nine-day delay before any word of the alleged rape was made public was not due to any reluctance on the part of the newspaper.″

A 21-year-old Clearwater woman reported to police she was raped by four or five young men at Urbanski’s house early April 27. Urbanski was not at home at the time and no charges have been filed in the case.

Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed a special prosecutor to handle the case after the chief local prosecutor asked for help, citing a past relationship between someone on his staff and the alleged victim.

The editorial criticized Urbanski, who as president and general manager has no direct involvement in news coverage or editorial decisions, for withholding information.

″Certainly, Jim Urbanski, our friend and colleague, should have alerted Tribune editors as soon as he got the word,″ the editorial said.

The newspaper also suggested politicians, police and prosecutors in the case were influenced by the fact that the young men reportedly involved were from prominent families.

″It is that information, although it should have been regarded as incidental information, that led to a temporary coverup of the event,″ the editorial read.

Urbanski said Wednesday he was not told about the editorial until it appeared in the newspaper. He declined to comment on it.

His attorney, Bennie Lazzara Jr., said Urbanski didn’t mention the case because he thought it was a personal matter that had nothing to do with his position at the newspaper.

″All he knew was something had been reported at his house - he didn’t know what it was all about,″ Lazzara said. ″What was he supposed to tell the Tribune? ... He didn’t feel it was incumbent upon him to make a news story out of it.″