by Sheila Dawn-Tracy, November 30, 2016
An unexpected development appeared as an action item on the November 7th agenda of the KZYX Board of Directors meeting.
The Board was asked to vote on the recommendation of the Hiring Committee for the position of General Manager. Although the application for the position was posted on the station's website and Facebook page, advertised online nationally and in printed publications locally and in neighboring counties, no notice of the opening of the application process was broadcast over the station's own air waves. Mention of the intent for a Hiring Committee to begin the process was made at a prior Board meeting in late August but no announcement of meeting dates was forthcoming despite written station policy to do so.
Attendance of the Ukiah meeting was sparse, consisting of nine people in total, four of whom were members of the Community Advisory Board (CAB). Three Board members, Directors Keller, Eubank and Azzaro were absent.
According to the summary of the Committee's proceedings, twelve applications were received of which four were vetted by Committee members. Two candidates were chosen to be interviewed though no details of the other candidates were given. In response to a question of whether confidentiality of personnel information extended to applicants, Director Stuart Campbell replied that it did.
A substantial portion of the meeting was devoted to discussing the qualifications of the recommended candidate, Terry Green, formerly of KUSP of Santa Cruz. Board members responded to CAB member, Tom Melcher's request for more information on Mr. Green's termination from KUSP nine months before the station filed for bankruptcy. Stating that although it raised a red flag, the Board was satisfied that the station's financial problems were not due to Green's management.
The Board voted to offer the General Manager position to Green who declined an invitation to attend the meeting, stating that it might be perceived that he was lobbying the Board in his favor. Campbell stated that contract details would be finalized and a starting date would be determined.
It appears the KZYX Board of Directors had a surprise of their own in store. For reasons unknown, Mr. Green declined the station's offer. On Friday, November 18th, the Board announced that it had offered the position to Jeffrey Parker, a veteran newsman who had worked with Reuters news agency and covered stories out of such varied places as New York, Washington and Beijing among others. Parker had been living in China from 1990 to 2016 and had applied for the position of GM in 2015 while still living in China. According to the Board's press release, Parker also has experience as a social entrepreneur, working with a non-profit as a community advocate to provide sustainable health care services in China and India. While overseas, Parker listened to KZYX daily via webstream and the Jukebox archives. He has supported the station as a sustaining member and has returned to Mendocino County where he will begin serving as Interim General Manager on December 1st. The Board has stated its intention to remove the Interim GM status and vote for Parker to be the Executive Director and General Manager at its January meeting.
In other station news, Interim GM, Diane Hering will be taking a medical leave of absence for the months of December and January and expects to return in mid February to her former staff position as Membership Coordinator.
Preparations for the upcoming Board election in March are being made. Director Jonathan Middlebrook will act as Election Coordinator. Three board seats mare available: The At-Large seat--residency requirement of Mendocino County or contiguous counties, District 3 (Willits Laytonville and Covelo areas) and District 4 (Fort Bragg and north coast areas). In another surprise announcement, Director Futcher stated that both she and Board President, Meg Courtney will not be seeking a second term. Applicants must be members in good standing by Dec. 31st. The application process closes Jan. 30th.
Director Campbell reported on developing proposals on sick leave and vacation policy. As a result of not having a written policy, one long time staff member was allowed to accrue unused vacation and sick leave pay which amounted to a 14K on budgeted station liability. The sick leave policy explicitly states that benefits are intended as protection against illness and will not be paid out upon employment termination. Vacation pay applies to full time staff and a cap of maximum accrual was devised according to years of service. A public meeting of the Bylaws and Policy Committee proposed for December will be announced.
As Treasurer, Campbell offered a fiscal report that showed the station having a net loss of $45K as of Oct. 31st. Due to an August transition of management, a planned short summer drive that was expected to bring in $30K did not occur. The Fall pledge drive brought in $85K but fell short of the $120K needed to make up the difference. Membership renewal letters had been delayed due to the installment and training of the new Allegiance software. The station’s line of credit of $75K has dwindled to an available balance of $3.6 K in order to make payroll and pay other expenses. Federal funds from a Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) grant of $121K have been awarded of which 70% is expected to arrive soon.
Campbell stated that a six-month budget revision is necessary to make adjustments for revenue shortfall as well as prepare for changes in Federal law which have mandated salary increases for overtime exempt status employees which will double as of Dec.1st from $23.6K to $47.5K. He noted that pending legal action may affect implementation or its applicability to a nonprofit.
General Manager's Report--The report was read as Hering is not able to attend evening meetings.
Operations--The Ukiah studio is now operational as a news production facility due to the efforts of Operations Manager, Rich Culbertson. The Program Director position is still part time despite the many responsibilities of the job. Current PD, Alice Woeffle-Erskin has some ideas to present to the new GM. The station's website will be converting to a new web platform that is more adaptable to content changes. Several staff members will be attending webinar training in the near future.
Programming--Valerie Kim will take maternity leave in mid December. Jason Morash, hired to cover Lake County news, will be taking on a larger role in the News Dept.
Community Advisory Board Report (CAB)--The total sum of the CAB report given by member Tony Novelli was that the group was close to nailing down a date and location for an upcoming meeting. The only public meeting held this year was on the coast in February. The three inland members did not attend. The CAB has fallen far short of its goals to have public meetings every other month. However, they did manage a private meeting at the home of Director Campbell which was deemed "improper" by a CPB spokesperson.
Public Comment--CAB member, Ellen Saxe addressed the unfinished business of the CAB. She suggested that the focus of the proposed meeting be to gather information on what priorities members thought should be brought to the attention of the incoming GM. She also thought that questions for a survey could be formulated from members input to be included with the election ballot.
Tom Melcher thought an on air program with the CAB and the GM might be more successful in getting a good public response than a public meeting that has not had a high turn out in the past. I read Sect 3.3 of the Policy Manual to the Board which states that all meetings are open to the public. It also stipulates a noticing requirement of 5 days on air and 5 days posting at the main studio. I informed the Board that I would send a certified letter to them requesting the minutes of several closed meetings which had not been responded after several previous requests. I commented that a Strategic Plan for the station had not been developed in ten years even though a template had been prepared by former Board Secretary, Katharine Cole in 2011. I thought that since the organizational details had been done, it would not be difficult to update the plan to reflect the current station needs. In my years of observing the operating procedures of the Board, I have noticed a consistent pattern of ignore, delay and forget in regard to members requests for information and long range planning. My final comment was that although an on air CAB program was a good idea, I felt strongly that it shouldn't act as a replacement for an on site public meeting.
Campbell responded to remarks I had made pertaining to when and by whom the title of Executive Director had been added to the previous Director's contract by stating that the title had no legal standing and did not give any powers or responsibilities to distinguish it from those of the GM. I was allowed to respond that that had not been my experience as a former programmer and employee. I then shared my experience that a former GM had intercepted, opened and responded to a letter addressed to the Board under the alleged authority of Executive Director.
A more compelling argument for not including an empty title in the GM contract is that the only Directors recognized in the Bylaws are those elected by the members or programmers of the station. To confer the title of Director to staff can only serve to confuse the clear boundaries of authority.
The Board concluded its meeting by outlining areas of priority for future board action including volunteer training and long range planning. The next board meeting is scheduled for January 2nd in Willits. Location TBA.