By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 12, 2009
The marketing executive at the center of a controversial series of Washington Post-sponsored dinner "salons" has resigned from the newspaper some 10 weeks after the events were canceled, The Post said Friday.
Charles Pelton, who had helped organize and promote the monthly dinners as The Post's newly hired general manager of events and conferences, made no mention of the controversy in his resignation letter to Post President Stephen P. Hills. "Given the current circumstances with regard to the resources needed to launch [an events business]," Pelton wrote, "my family and I have decided not to relocate to Washington, D.C.," from California.
Pelton was not immediately available for further comment.
The dinners Pelton was organizing were advertised to involve Post journalists, Obama administration and congressional officials, and industry executives in a series of sponsored, off-the-record conversations about public policy issues. The dinners were to be held at the home of Post publisher Katharine Weymouth.
The newspaper canceled the events in early July, before any were held. The controversy erupted after the disclosure of a promotional brochure that sought sponsors willing to pay $25,000 for each dinner, or $250,000 for all 11 events in the planned series. Critics said the concept crossed ethical lines, creating the perception that sponsors would gain special access to Post journalists.
Before joining The Post Co. four months ago, Pelton, a former journalist who worked at Time magazine and InformationWeek, had co-owned Modern Media, a California-based firm that organizes conferences.
In his resignation letter, Pelton said he looked forward to continuing to work as a consultant for the newspaper.
In a letter to Pelton released by The Post, Hills wrote, "We are grateful for the work you did to help us launch our conference business, which we believe is an important and appropriate extension of our brand."
Kris Coratti, The Post's director of communications, had no comment other than to refer to the letters.