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Crime news site loses top talent over pay concerns

The departures at APBnews.com come as a surprise to staffers, as news operations are suspended for at least a week while the company reorganizes its editorial staff.

Two top APBnews.com editors and a senior staff writer quit Tuesday after payroll once again could not be met, leaving the crime news Web site scrambling for a survival plan.

The decision came as a surprise to staffers who were told that news operations will be suspended at least for the remainder of the week while the company undergoes editorial restructuring.

"It was a blow," APBnews spokesman Joe Krakoviak said.

Executive editor Hoag Levins sent a memo announcing his departure via email to the dozen or so staff members Tuesday morning. He offered no explanation in his memo, but in an interview with CNET News.com he said he had grown tired of the company not paying employees on time. Payday was Dec. 29, but checks were not delivered, he said.

"I could not face my staff one more time and tell them I couldn't pay them," Levins said.

Managing editor Ed Levine and staff writer Seamus McGraw have also left the organization.

Like many other Internet companies, APBnews has gone through a wild ride since its creation two years ago. The site won several prestigious journalism awards and secured an important First Amendment victory after battling the federal judiciary over posting financial disclosure forms on the site.

But by June, the company had burned through all of its cash and laid off 140 employees. A month later APBnews filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, hoping to revive the business despite a $7 million debt.

In September, SafetyTips.com bought the assets of APB Online, operator of APBnews, for $575,000. The relationship has been rocky, however. Paychecks began arriving late, or were not paid entirely, Levins said.

In the final days of December, staffers were promised full pay plus one week of aggravation pay--but that never came through, Levins said.

SafetyTips has said payroll will be met sometime next week. When it is, stories will once again be posted on the site, Krakoviak said.