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Aguilar files federal complaint against Fox4 (latest update)

Ex-Fox4 reporter Rebecca Aguilar

Former Fox4 reporter Rebecca Aguilar, terminated in March by the Dallas-based station after a lengthy suspension, filed a formal complaint against Fox4 Wednesday with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In a statement, her Dallas lawyer, Steve Kardell said, "I'm confident the EEOC will uncover what our investigation has unveiled. Fox4 wanted my client to advocate change in the community through her reports, but to keep silent in improving working conditions in the newsroom."

Fox4 news director Maria Barrs said by telephone Wednesday, "We don't comment on personnel matters, and this is a personnel matter."

The station elaborated on that position later Wednesday. Its official response to Aguilar's complaint is, "Fox4 looks forward to defending our decision in the appropriate forum."

A brief news release from Aguilar's attorney also alleges that his client was fired "in a calculated move," and that she "did nothing wrong in October 2007 when KDFW (Channel 4) management suspended her over an alleged controversial interview."

The release also notes that the suspension came two weeks after Aguilar was named Broadcast Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Reached Wednesday night, as storm clouds gathered over North Texas, Kardell said there's "no hard and fast timetable" for EEOC deliberations and decision-making.

"By and large it runs from a couple of months to six months," he said.

The EEOC sometimes will bring both parties together in an effort to reach an agreement. Otherwise its rulings can open the door to a lawsuit, Kardell said.

Aguilar was a reporter for 14 years with Fox4, and did more than 6,000 interviews in that capacity, her attorney says.

The 49-year-old news veteran was suspended with pay on Oct. 16th of last year following her interview outside a sporting goods store with an elderly West Dallas salvage business owner who had shot and killed two alleged burglars within three weeks time. The interview and suspension received heavy national coverage, with some accusing Aguilar of "ambushing" a feeble old man and of being an anti-gun advocate.

Others said she had been aggressive, but not unduly so, in getting a story that rival D-FW television stations also wanted for their newscasts.

Aguilar said she received the news of her termination in an envelope slid under her front door mat on March 5th. It informed her that Fox4 was exercising an option to drop her at the halfway point of a two-year contract with the station that began on March 6, 2007.

In a March 5th interview with unclebarky.com, Aguilar said the suspension and resultant termination had tarnished her journalistic career.

"It's like in one swoop it ruined my reputation. It ruined my name," she said.

Aguilar re-emphasized those concerns early Wednesday evening in a telephone interview.

"That's what I'm fighting for, a reputation that I worked hard for. A good reputation," she said. "I want my reputation back because how am I going to find another job? Nowadays when you apply for a job, no matter where it is, the first thing they're going to do is google your name."

All 10 entries on the first of many Aguilar google pages are links to stories and commentary on her Fox4 suspension.