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The KZYX Backward Shuffle

Overcast skies on Monday, July 7th brought relief of the triple digit temperatures that had plagued inland residents over the weekend. The KZYX Board of Directors met that evening in an air conditioned room at the Willits Library. All members of the Board were present as July 1st begins the station’s fiscal year with the principle agenda item being the review, discussion and subsequent vote to accept the proposed budget.

Unfortunately, I was delayed by an attempt to retrieve a Board member’s forgotten notebook from the Space Theater and missed the beginning of the meeting. It seems that my letter to the Board, presented at the May meeting, was in the notebook and contained the only available contact information.

Upon entering, my attention was immediately drawn to the presence of professional recording equipment. It was there to record a dramatic confrontation between two Board members, John Sakowicz and Jane Futcher.

According to Sakowicz, a confidential email had been sent to the other Board members in advance of the upcoming meeting, informing them that he wanted a discussion of staff accountability to be placed on the agenda.

A letter written by an acquaintance, Kathryn Massey, to the General Manager, John Coate, concerning the unprofessional behavior of two staff members towards her on the KZYX premises had received no response. Not to be deterred, Massey aired her complaint in the July 6th edition of the Ukiah Daily Journal (and in the AVA), stating that along with Sakowicz not getting engineering support from the station’s staff during his program, she had been subjected to the indignity of being screamed at by one staffer and spat at by another — acts she considered to be vindictive retribution for complaints both she and Sakowicz had filed with the FCC.

Seven months after the application for renewal was submitted to the FCC, the station’s license still hangs in limbo. Legal fees are $8K higher than expected due to what Coate referred to in his budget notes as “problem people.”

Back at the Board meeting, Sakowicz was interrupted in his comments during a now routine agenda item noted as Matters from Board Members. As reported, Futcher rose from her chair and shouted for him to stop speaking as what he was addressing was a confidential personnel problem. Sakowicz replied that he had not named any individuals and was entitled to the same three minutes that were given to members of the public. Board President, Eliane Herring, gaveled Sakowicz into silence, declaring he was out of order and threatened to call a recess of the meeting if he did not comply.

Not having witnessed the above scenario, I called Futcher to get her perspective.

She commented that she was not opposed to having a private conversation by Board members on staff accountability, but felt that a public discussion was inappropriate. She felt that Sakowicz’s repeated attacks on staff was bad for staff morale, affirming her belief that the GM is responsible for staff behavior and the conversation should take place at that level. Futcher added that in her previous experience on the KZYX Board, a discussion of the spitting incident would not have been permitted and was the reason she prevented Sakowicz from continuing his remarks.

Director Paul Lambert gave a report on planned outreach efforts to members through an electronic newsletter to be written by a “non member of the Board volunteer on a regular basis.” The intent is to keep members informed on the actions of the Board and the staff, on programming news, station events and volunteer opportunities as well as balance the image of KZYX from recent negative publicity. He also mentioned that the guests of upcoming public affairs shows will be announced in local newspapers. Listeners will be encouraged to visit the KZYX Facebook page as an alternative source of information which focuses on programmers and their activities.

An update on the July 25th Birthday Bash & Variety Show was given. Scheduled for Saturday, October 11th from 2-7 p.m. at the Boonville Fairgrounds, the event is a celebration of the station’s continued success. Local bands and local talent will be featured with many contributions from the station’s programmers. Certificates of appreciation will be awarded with input from KZYX staff. Local vendors and merchants will be encouraged to participate through vendor booths. It is a fundraiser as well as a chance for the community to connect with the station in a party atmosphere. Food and alcohol will be available and a raffle is planned. Volunteers will be “selectively recruited” for numerous tasks. Co-chair, Jane Futcher suggested a dunking booth which was a source of much humor from Board members, one of whom jokingly contributed the idea that they should have two booths side by side in which GM Coate and Board member Sakowicz were the candidates for dunking to see which booth earned the most money. Admission fee: $5.

House parties for the purpose of creating goodwill in the community, sharing information and raising money are being scheduled for the coast, Willits and Ukiah areas.

General Manager’s Report

The May pledge drive raised $52K — considerably less than the goal of $85K. Due to revenue shortfall and an expected drop of $50K from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) grant, Coate has taken a cautious approach to incurring the additional expense of the Ukiah project at this time. The station’s projected income for 2015 is $570K while projected expenses are estimated at $553K, leaving only $17K of discretionary reserves. The revised estimate for the signal relocation and Ukiah studio is almost $63K — an increase of $9K since the plan was first proposed in May. No mention was made at any time by either the GM or the Board of the $9K that was earmarked for the Ukiah studio in the 2014 budget. At last years budget meeting, Director Sakowicz was assured that the $6K raised by the Ukiah community a decade ago for a Ukiah studio would be matched by the station in an effort to quell sustained criticism regarding abuse of the public trust in breaking agreements by a previous Board.

Due to problems with the station’s signal this Spring, $7.5K more was spent for engineering consultants than was budgeted. Interference in the transmission line was found to be caused by a bad cable inside the transmitter. An additional problem of signal strength was solved by realigning the ‘send’ antenna which had been knocked out of position. Despite acquiring back up equipment for various links in the signal chain, the transmitters and transmission lines have been in continuous service for ten years which, according to Coate, makes future equipment failures likely.

The station plans to do a summer mailing to bolster its revenues during the lean summer months. Postage and printing costs totaled over $5K in 2014 and more than $7K is budgeted for 2015.

Highlights of the 2015 Budget

The three salaried staff employees will get a pay raise due to an increase in the minimum wage to $9 effective July 1st. To avoid being paid time and a half for overtime, currently MCPB employees are paid twice the minimum wage.

$15K is budgeted for broadcasting equipment. This will include funding for a taller replacement pole for the Philo to Cold Springs STL to place it higher than the surrounding trees allowing more time to acquire the funding needed for the Ukiah project.

More money is budgeted for freelance news consultants though how much is unclear as the $27K figure also includes the cost of the new website mobile app.

Requests for the archiving of programs has resulted in the station subscribing to an archiving service from Pacifica for a monthly fee of $150. All programming will soon be available “on demand” and provide easier access to programming on mobile devices.

Revenues from donations are projected at $350K, up $7K from 2014. Hosted house parties focused on high end donors and increased revenue from BOM (bill of the month) donations are hoped to offset CPB cuts as that grant is tied to the amount of the station’s earned income. $5K is currently brought in through BOM donations.

Income from fundraising events is estimated at $20K, up from an all time low of $9,200 in 2013 but still far short of the $30k raised in 2012. Planned events include a continued partnership with Tim Bray, a producer of Celtic concerts, participation in Beerfest, a comprehensive raffle, an online auction with Nevada Public Radio and the 25th Birthday Celebration event.

Underwriting income remains projected at $40k though income from underwriting trades is reduced by half to $20k.

The GM’s plans to help pay for the Ukiah project through increased membership in Lake County by boosting its signal to reach that area has hit a snag. Mt. Konocti, the planned location for the signal booster is outside the station’s legal perimeter. An alternative location, Cow Mountain has the drawback of less coverage and an increased possibility of interference with the 91.5 signal.

No programming information was included in the GM report but in spite of promises to include Doug McKenty as one of the rotating hosts in a reformatted listener call in show, a new show, Discussion, was aired this month in the former Open Lines time slot without him. W Dan Houck and Angela DeWitt were selected to be part of the four person rotating team in addition to the shows they currently host. In a phone conversation, McKenty related that after the new show was long overdue, he called Aigner, the Program Director to inquire why he had not been contacted. Her response was that it was his responsibility, not hers, to initiate the conversation. Apparently, the reception was so frigid, Mc Kenty decided to opt out stating he could no longer work in a hostile environment. He now produces an online video show called The Shift on Mendocino TV.

Public Comment

Six members of the public including three former Board members gave comments to the Board.

I spoke first, asking why the agenda did not include a review of volunteer policy as was agreed to at the May membership meeting. I reminded the Board that I had been recognized as Volunteer of the Month by station staff in ’07 for my contributions as a news reporter and engineer of the Friday evening news programs. Now I had been banned from volunteering without even having a chance to present the facts of the events surrounding that decision.

I stated that if the Board was sincere in its desire to collaborate with people who have different views from their own, then they needed to learn to speak the language of respect and quoted some passages made by President Herring and GM, John Coate, in the legal brief prepared by MCPB’s legal team in Wash. D.C., Garvey Schubert & Barer which was sent to each of the five people who filed Informal Objections with the FCC. Both Herring and Coate referred to me as a heckler and Herring dismissed my comments at Board meetings as part of a group of “professional dissenters who show up to hector the Board and act in a rude and vitriolic manner.” I noted that the present meeting was the first time the public would be allowed to comment on Action items on the agenda, a result of the suggestion I made in calling a point of process at last year’s budget meeting when I was gaveled to silence by the Board President and declared “out of order.” To characterize my challenge to the Board as hectoring is one more example of the false assertions that peppered the declarations of both Herring and Coate in the legal document in regard to my involvement with the station. Such distortions make it difficult to improve communication with Board and management.

Erin Carney asked Sakowicz why he persisted in such negative and strange behavior, stating that it was unclear to her why he was on the Board. Sakowicz responded that he saw himself as a whistleblower and a catalyst for change.

King Collins asked the Board why they were ignoring the dialogue of members and listeners that had been going on through the kzyxtalk listserve. He stated that the Board needed to engage with those who have opinions rather than exclude them. He referred to the information he presented at the last meeting regarding the station’s confidentiality policy being in conflict with the California Code for Non Profits, remarking that not one word of response was elicited from any Board member. He expressed displeasure with the conference call set up by Director Campbell between members and the Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) where access to the documents under discussion was not available to all and a three minute limit was given to all who were not on the CAB.

Paul Lambert asked to respond and continued though the Board President denied his request. He loudly accused Collins of repeatedly lying, making attacks against him and trying to trap him. When Herring tried to prevent Collins from responding, Collins stated he had a right to defend himself when publicly accused of lying. King heatedly said the situation needed resolution through dialogue; that Lambert needed to… Lambert rose from his seat and bellowed, “DO WHAT?” Herring pounded the gavel excitedly saying that the situation would be resolved offline! When Madrigal asked what did that mean, she replied “Not in this room.” Sakowicz quickly quipped, “In the parking lot?” dissolving the tension with humor. Lambert later apologized to both the Board and Collins for his outburst.

Fran Koliner spoke about not knowing what was going on at the station since she left the Board. She didn’t know how the station had resolved problems with the signal going off the air until she read the GM’s report and was glad to hear that a regular newsletter was planned to keep members informed.

Former Board member, David Hopmann said he would be away for the July 25th Birthday Bash. Bringing attention to one of the raffle prizes of horse manure delivery, he stated if he won that prize, he didn’t want to it delivered to his apartment, winning smiles from around the room. Not content to leave the matter there, he continued that he thought there were several people in the room deserving of that particular prize, a comment that only Board President Herring found amusing.

He added that criticisms of the GM came with the territory stating that previous GMs had suffered attacks as well. He reminded the Board that they were all elected in an open election and all but one of them shared similar views, advising them not to back down.

The final comment came from Lindy Johnson who said that the station was much better than when she first started listening to it thirteen years ago. She felt the programming and DJs were much more interesting. She was so happy with the station, she planned to increase her donation this year.

I asked the Board to respond to why the volunteer policy was not on the agenda. Herring asserted she never agreed to it. Member Bob Page said he didn’t remember the Board voting on it. I asked whether the agreement was recorded in the May meeting minutes. It wasn’t. It appeared that the entire Board was suffering from a case of collective amnesia until Director Madrigal claimed responsibility for not following up on adding it to the Board agenda. Board member Courtney spoke saying it was her understanding that it was not a Board decision.

I asked who made that decision and why was it not discussed in public as promised? One of the station’s Bylaws state that any decision reached by the Board outside of a regular Board meeting must be approved by the Board at the next meeting.

Madrigal backpedaled furiously, proposing that a handout of the volunteer policy be available to the public at meetings.

Page made a counter-proposal to make a commitment to me to respond to my letter.

Courtney falsely stated that I had been notified that the matter was not a Board decision. I corrected her statement that her response to me was that I did not have right to volunteer.

I insisted on transparency of Board decisions.

Madrigal suggested a compromise that guidelines for accepting or rejecting a volunteer be developed with input from the GM. Coate agreed to have a discussion of guidelines with her.

The Board moved on, taking up a general discussion of the proposed budget. Details of the archiving service were elaborated upon. Coate answered the Board questions on reduced employee insurance costs. Madrigal had questions on how to make progress on the Ukiah studio. She asked if fundraising goals were met in the future, could a specific sum be set aside for the project?

Making payroll was Coate’s priority. Page thought infrastructure maintenance costs were a higher priority than expansion plans. Herring suggested that the planned donor parties might be a source of designated revenue.

Public Comment on the Budget

Erin Carney wanted to bring back Prairie Home Companion. Coate responded that it would cost the station $18K as it was carried by one of the services to which the station does not subscribe.

Hopmann asked if there were offsets — money saved from adding the Ukiah studio. Coate answered no, it was all an outlay of cash.

Collins asked for a more comprehensive report on the satellite studios. He said there was a curious lack of dialogue with the people who were interested in station affairs, reminding the Board of the $6K raised by inland residents years ago. He called those funds illusionary.

My comments on the budget expressed a desire to see more fundraising events in the community rather than fundraising directed toward private donor parties. I recalled former Board member Laviva Dakirs advocating for the hiring of a Fundraising Coordinator which would save the cost of staff time and energy. I noted that Madrigal had suggested reviewing fundraising costs to see why they were high, neither recommendation taking root. I pointed out that in the station’s public file, under the job description of News Director, it states that the News Director has the power to negotiate the budget of the news department with the GM. In the current configuration of hiring the news staff as independent contract consultants, that power is negated. I felt that working without vacation pay and health coverage was contrary to what had been stated previously as the desire to have staff treated and paid well. I thought that the fact that the News Department was not getting the same package as the rest if the staff was not only unfair but affected the quality of the news being produced.

The Board voted unanimously to accept the proposed budget.

Due to the length of the meeting approaching three hours and the scope of the information provided, the CAB committee reports will be focus of a subsequent article.

No mention of the date of the next Board meeting was made. Following the quarterly schedule of the Board, the next meeting will be on Monday, October 6th in Anderson Valley.


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