One year to the day after he was fired as morning news anchor at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 for inappropriate conduct with a co-worker, Mike Barz is back in business: He's the new weekday morning anchor at WAWS-TV and WTEV-TV in Jacksonville, Fla.
It's a familiar market for Barz and his wife, Channel 32 reporter Tera Williams, who grew up in Central Florida and graduated from the University of Florida in Gainesville. "I've been coming here for years on vacation to get away from the cold," Barz said in a statement. "Now I get to actually live here and invest in a community that's brought so much joy to me and my family."
News of Barz's hiring was first reported last May by Scott Jones' FTVLive.com, but it didn't become official until this week. Barz declined to comment at the time, saying: "I've been talking to folks in Jacksonville, but there is nothing to announce."
There's a significant Chicago connection between Barz and his new boss: Jim Zerwekh, vice president and general manager of WAWS/WTEV, is a former vice president and station manager of WGN-Channel 9. Barz worked at the Tribune Co.-owned station here for seven years as morning sports anchor -- before his two-year stint as a features correspondent and fill-in weatherman on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Barz, 40, spent part of the last year challenging his firing in July 2009 after two years as anchor of "Good Day Chicago." Although he later called the episode "a fabricated story," Barz was fired after attending a going-away party for Margaret Shortridge, a Channel 32 reporter whose contract was not renewed.
Fox Chicago news anchor Robin Robinson, who also attended the party, subsequently lodged a complaint that Barz had hugged her inappropriately and made her feel uncomfortable. It proved to be the second strike against Barz, who'd been suspended two years earlier for his behavior at a going-away party for a production assistant.
An investigation of Robinson's allegations led to Barz's dismissal, voiding the final eight months of his contract, which reportedly was worth $500,000 a year. He was promptly replaced alongside morning co-anchor Jan Jeffcoat by David Novarro.