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"You should exercise extreme caution in all contacts with her," Schroeder wrote. "She cannot be trusted to keep her word or to cover our office accurately or fairly."
TimesOC editor Steve Marble defended Hanley, calling the Schroeder memo "inappropriate" and "full of errors and misstatements." He told the Weekly, "The Times has complete confidence in [Hanley's] integrity."
The Schroeders fired back, saying that Times editors had violated a pledge that they'd block Hanley's probe. "Mr. Marble told me on several occasions that the Times will not write a profile piece about us without our participation," Susan said. "He lied to me."
Hogwash, Times officials countered. "No self-respecting newspaper would put a leash on a talented investigative reporter," said one senior Times OC employee who requested anonymity. "They're delusional."
The dispute, which has captured national media attention, turned even uglier behind the scenes in recent weeks. With one story done, Hanley apparently has resumed digging. Could additional stories follow?
"Hanley's now investigating my wedding from six and a half years ago!" said Susan Schroeder. "Can you imagine? She's trying to taint my wedding by claiming we got special favors from the sheriff's department. It's nuts. It shows how desperate she is for revenge. She's arrogant, biased and I've got a message for her."
Susan appreciates dark humor. She paused and then slowly said, "Don't screw with the bride."
If Hanley's gotten under Susan's skin, Mike's reaction is symbolized by a shoulder shrug.
"For anyone to care about Hanley's story, it's got to have some breaking news about me," he said. "It won't. It will be an extended whine. She's probably getting her bad information from George [Jaramillo]. And besides, nobody reads the Times anyway."
Mike Schroeder is a prolific quote machine. Silent for a moment, he added, "If Hanley and the Times want to write a story that essentially says I'm this big, powerful guy, be my guest. I'm not crazy. I'd take that story every day."