“The past four years have not been fun at WJFF.” That statement, made by one long-time volunteer during the heated April 17 meeting of WJFF’s Board of Trustees (BOT), apparently characterized the feeling of many volunteers at the meeting toward WJFF management during Station Manager Winston Clark’s tenure; Clark resigned his post at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 12. Adam Weinreich was named interim station manager until a new station manager can be hired.
Tempers flared in a room so full of volunteers that they spilled into the hallway and down the stairwell of the Jeffersonville Village Hall. Most of them were forced to stand for the duration of the meeting. The board decided that a larger venue must be found for future meetings. Although several were mentioned, none had been selected by meeting’s end.
Board President Dawn Dorcas opened the meeting with a prepared statement acknowledging the dissatisfaction among volunteers that prompted Clark’s resignation. Defending WJFF management, she asserted that actions by Clark and/or the board had been taken to ensure WJFF’s viability and sustainability.
Dorcas stated that at year-end 2008 Radio Catskill had an operating deficit of $58,100. On April 1, 2009, it had $116,822.92 in assets, and by April 1, 2013, it had assets of $344,538. All of these assertions were challenged by volunteers, who called for an audit of WJFF’s books and requested that the board step down.
Calls for the board to step down were prompted by three central issues. The first issue is the board’s alleged complicity in Clark’s unilateral decision-making. The second issue is the question of whether or not Radio Catskill is in compliance with FCC and Corporation of Public Broadcasting (CPB) regulations requiring regular, open meetings of a Citizens Advisory Board (CAB); the board contends that Radio Catskill is in full compliance, but the volunteers insist that it has been in violation of those regulations since the board-ordered dissolution of its CAB in 2009. The third issue is an allegation of voting irregularities in the most recent board election. A complaint was lodged claiming that volunteers were being pressured by a board member into supporting one candidate over another. And board members acknowledged the possibility that not all eligible voters had received ballots.
Dorcas responded to calls for the board to step down by asking if those calls were directed at her personally. When audience response indicated that might be the case, Dorcas announced that she will not seek another term when her current term expires in June. [See below for more recent news about several board resignations since the April 17 meeting.] She also offered to resign immediately, if that was the board’s wish. Fellow board members gave her their support.
Some positive notes were sounded during the meeting. Several audience members identifying themselves as listeners, members, and volunteers praised both the board and the volunteers for their many unpaid hours of service on behalf of Radio Catskill.
Weinreich announced the possibility of a translator swap that would increase the Radio Catskill listening area to include Delaware River towns of Port Jervis, Matamoras and Milford. Board member Sonja Hedlund contributed ideas for WJFF CAB practices modeled on those of other public radio stations with demographics similar to those of WJFF.
An ad hoc committee was appointed to write a station manager job description. The WJFF Fundraising Committee announced that in lieu of a full week of pledging, it will hold three fundraising events: Foodstock, a food and wine tasting, will be held in the Tennis Building at Villa Roma on May 11 from 11 a.m.to 3 p.m.; a fundraising dinner; and a short-form pledge. For more information, visit WJFF’s website at www.wjffradio.org .
The meeting concluded with the recognition that many people in our community are passionately committed to the success of Radio Catskill. Constructive suggestions for moving forward included bringing in an independent mediator to address divisive issues, holding general elections for BOT seats, setting BOT term limits and improving transparency by upgrading the WJFF website to make more information available to the general public.