updated 5/6/2004 9:30:51 AM ET 2004-05-06T13:30:51

The Star Tribune’s 81-year-old ombudsman is leaving the paper after 23 years, and he’s not going quietly: He filed an age discrimination complaint.

Lou Gelfand, one of the longest-tenured newspaper ombudsmen in the nation, filed a complaint with the Minnesota Human Rights Department, claiming he was being forced out for reasons “which are no more than excuses for age discrimination.”

His lawyer said the complaint, filed Monday, will trigger a formal investigation that could lead to a federal lawsuit against the newspaper.

Gelfand’s last day was to be May 17.

Ben Taylor, the newspaper’s senior vice president for communications, said in a statement that the newspaper doesn’t comment on personnel issues.

Gelfand, the only full-time news ombudsman in Minnesota, said in a statement he was unfairly criticized and felt pressured to leave.

“I was told that my ‘accuracy’ was unacceptable even though I have made very few errors in more than 1,000 columns,” he said.

A news ombudsman investigates complaints from readers or viewers about accuracy, balance and good taste. Gelfand reported on his findings in a weekly column titled “If You Ran the Newspaper.”

Gelfand declined to comment beyond his statement and referred questions to his lawyer, Jim Kaster.

He said the newspaper offered Gelfand a job writing for the religion pages, but Gelfand declined. “They offered him that job knowing he was not qualified for it,” Kaster said.

Gina Lubrano, executive secretary of the Organization of News Ombudsmen, said Gelfand was among the most experienced of the 40 or so ombudsmen in the county.

The Star Tribune is owned by the McClatchy Co. of Sacramento, Calif.

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