Penn, who joined the Star in 1980 and had been a columnist for a decade, claims that copying press releases was commonplace at the paper and throughout the field of journalism. His suit says part of his training at the paper even included using press releases and not attributing them to their source.
The suit says: "Nevertheless, one of those supervisors apparently objected to the widespread practice and without informing Plaintiff that it should no longer be followed, decided to "make an example" of Plaintiff and push for his firing."
In the suit, Penn claims that by calling his columns plagiarism, the paper hurt his reputation and cost him employment opportunities.
"Because of his former employer's false and very public statements, Plaintiff's reputation has been damaged and he has sustained a loss of business standing and contacts as a professional, as a result of which, he has lost job opportunities," the suit claims.
At the time the Star fired Penn, it published an article explaining the reasons. "In the normal editing process and a follow-up review, it was discovered that Penn had lifted material from press releases verbatim, in some cases presenting others' conclusions and opinions as his own and without attribution. Editors found more than a dozen examples in Penn's columns dating back to 2008," the article said.
The piece cited several columns that were mostly just copied releases, about the death of a restaurant owner, and the family of Duke Ellington working with the Overland Park-based nonprofit Alaadeen Enterprises Inc. to aid U.S. veterans.
A hearing in the case is scheduled for November 14. You can read the entire suit here.