Chris Ward looks up as Mark Sauer of KPBS prepares to take a seat next to political strategist Eva Posner at La Mesa forum in January 2018. Photo by Ken Stone

Veteran journalist Mark Sauer is used to exploring mysteries. Now he’s at the center of one.

On Tuesday, KPBS staff was told in a Zoom editorial meeting that the public broadcasting outlet had “parted ways” with Sauer, who in 2014 shared San Diego Journalist of the Year honors with his team for coverage of the Bob Filner sex-harassment saga.

Sauer, 68, had been stepping back from his management role in recent years and was moderator of Friday’s “KPBS Roundtable” show — formerly known as “Editor’s Roundtable.”

His Twitter handle — @sauerkpbs — has been deleted.

“I can confirm that Mark Sauer’s last day with KPBS was Friday, February 19,” said KPBS spokeswoman Heather Milne Barger. “He left his position as host of ‘Roundtable.’ We thank him for his many years of service.”

Via email, Sauer told Times of San Diego: “This is a personal issue. KPBS is a fine organization with many fine people. I wish them continued success going forward.”

Mark Sauer, who joined KPBS in 2010 after 27 years at The San Diego Union-Tribune, was host of the weekly “KPBS Roundtable” on Fridays.

Speculation arose that Sauer’s support of the labor union at KPBS may have played a role.

“He had a good relationship with management but he was very supportive of the union,” said a former KPBS employee. “Anyone who supported the union upset management. But he was so well loved, I’m surprised they wouldn’t celebrate his departure.”

Since 2013, KPBS employees have been represented by the labor union SAG-AFTRA, which also represents public media professionals at KQED in San Francisco, KPCC in Pasadena and WNYC in New York.

A current employee said: “It seems Mark doesn’t want to talk about it either. He’s asking for privacy.”

At the U-T, Sauer helped report the case of Dale Akiki, a Faith Chapel volunteer in Spring Valley accused of ritual sexual abuse of preschoolers in the early 1990s.

“The children were about 3 and 4 when the events supposedly occurred, and 6 to 8 when they testified” in a 7-month trial, according to a U-T account. “Among other bizarre things, they told the court that Akiki had killed a giraffe and an elephant in their presence and sacrificed a child and drank its blood in the nursery.”

Akiki was acquitted and won $2 million in a lawsuit. A San Diego County Grand Jury later looked into his prosecution, and District Attorney Ed Miller was defeated in a bid for re-election.

Updated at 1:10 p.m. Feb. 23, 2021

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