2006-04/Apr Board Corrects "Misconceptions"

This form letter was received by at least three people, on about April 29th, who wrote impassioned letters to the board about the situation at KRFC. At least one writer remarked that the formulaic reply doesn't address any of the points in the letter they sent, and another said: This is the canned response I got to a very direct and genuinely concerned letter I wrote to the Board at KRFC on April 21. Apparently my letter did not deserve an individual reply. As I read it, the response to me personally is 'We don't need to reply to your particular concerns and we don't need your support."
I am enclosing a document written by the Board. In it we answer some questions and correct some misconceptions which we believe are circulating. Hopefully this will be helpful.

Thank you for your interest in KRFC.

With respect,

Susan Sternlieb for the Board of Directors

Recently, weve received some thoughtful letters from concerned members and supporters who are encouraging us to make use of mediation in the matter of three volunteers who have had their memberships revoked. Some letter writers are also concerned about the Boards dismissal of a recently submitted petition calling for the rejection of our newly adopted Mission, Vision and Values Statements.

On the face of it, the news of 3 memberships being revoked and a petition being dismissed sounds somewhat alarming. We are especially aware of the fact that a number of members who signed the recent petition in good faith, truly believe it was the right thing to do and are disappointed with the Boards actions.

However, we strongly believe that the Boards decisions and actions were appropriate and in the best interests of KRFC. We believe that they will result in a stronger, more inclusive and ultimately more successful community radio station for all of us. The reasons for our actions were not only based on recent events, but on a long and complex history of personal conflicts and power struggles. Our decisions were made with care and were the result of many hours of discussion spanning several years.

While its not feasible to completely explain the reasons for the Boards recent actions, we wish to clarify some areas where we believe some of our members and supporters may have misconceptions. Listed below are some of the points that have been brought to our attention in the recent e-mails we ve received, along with responses that describe our understanding of the situation.

1) There is division at the radio station.
The fact is that there isnt significant division. Please come to the station and see for yourself! If you talk to people there (the volunteers, staff and programmers) youll see that the station is cohesive and thriving. Morale is good. These are exciting and positive times at KRFC.

2) The community spirit at KRFC is being eroded by the recent events.
Its true that a handful of KRFC volunteers were displeased with the Board s recent actions and some decided to discontinue their involvement. We also recognize that there is a group of people in the community who believe that KRFCs leadership is running roughshod over the will of its members. However, from the Boards point of view, community spirit at the station has improved significantly over the past few weeks. Previously, a few people were responsible for an atmosphere of mistrust, a twisting of the facts to suit their purposes and to undermine the best efforts of the stations staff and Board. It created an underlying feeling of constant low-grade tension. Now, there is less tension and more room for everyone to express their views without feeling uncomfortable. We dream of creating a community station that welcomes everyone, especially those under-represented elsewhere. While all are welcome, a sense of community spirit at KRFC is based on mutual trust and respect, good communication and willingness to compromise and work constructively with others. Those that behave destructively dont have a place in our community.

3) Long standing members have been removed in retaliation for circulating a petition.
Unfortunately, because of the timing, this perception may be unavoidable. The members who were removed and KRFCs Board have a long history of disagreement over many issues and decisions. The fact that weve disagreed and the specifics of those disagreements are not why the Board dismissed them. It was because of their tactics. Members of KRFCs Board and staff have been bullied, berated, called disparaging names and undermined whenever decisions differed from their wishes. While some constructive dialogue has taken place over the years, their repeated personal attacks destroyed all trust. The Board cannot function under a barrage of name-calling and attacks for decisions that are in tune with our mission and vision (both past and present). This pattern of behavior continued for too long. The petition was not the issue, but just one symptom. It was the recurring public voicing of derision, the bypassing of regular routes of communication and the demonizing of the Board that necessitated the removal of 3 members.

4) The petition was dismissed frivolously.
The decision to dismiss the petition was not taken lightly. There was no thought or action taken by the Board to fight the petition. We considered it part of the legitimate process. We know that some members signed it for good reasons - because they did not support the new Mission, Vision and Core Values document, because they were against changing the old mission statement or because they believed that the decision ought to be voted on by the membership. That was the purpose of the petition. However, during the petition signing process, we heard a variety of disturbing stories. Some people were given false information about the purpose of the petition, some were bullied to sign it with repeated calls at their work and at the station, nonmembers were urged to become members in order to sign it and so forth. One member had asked that his name be removed from the petition and it wasnt. A number of people who signed the petition told us that they realized later that the real issue seemed more about a struggle for power than the actual work of the Board of Directors.

Our legal council recommended that we reject the petition because it was incomplete. Without any identifiers but peoples names, validating the results would have been difficult and quite time consuming. For this reason, and our belief that the petition was not a legitimate expression of the voices of our membership, we elected to reject the petition as invalid. A later quick cross check of the 89 names on the petition with our membership rosters revealed that there were not the requisite 50 members needed to cause any action to be taken.

5) The Board rejected input in creating the new mission, vision and values statements.
Nothing can be farther from the truth. Months before we started, we sought input from multiple sources, both within and outside of the station. This input helped us to see what was important to members, volunteers, listeners and non-listeners alike, and how our original mission statement could be improved to be a more functional, forward thinking document. The Board really felt it got a good education on what needed to be kept and what could be improved. All of the input was important in creating the end result, even if the specific words and phrases of some participants werent included. Writing these documents was challenging - to explain KRFC as clearly and concisely as possible. It was a process of thoughtful discussion and compromise. We think the end result is good, but not perfect. Reaction to the new documents has run the gamut from praise to criticism that they dont go far enough to imagine what KRFC can be. We expect these documents will be revised over the years as KRFC grows and changes.

Changing the mission statement was a threatening concept for some folks. Holding on to the original mission statement was seen as a way of preserving the original intent of KRFCs founders. In changing KRFCs guiding documents, the Board had absolutely no intention of changing the key values and factors that make KRFC what it is. In fact, the old and the new documents have quite similar content.

6) The decision to revoke three memberships was done in haste / The Board has not engaged in constructive dialogue.
The current and previous years Boards have made a concerted effort for more than two years to work with the group represented by these three people. We like some of their ideas. New policies have been created and policies have been changed to make KRFC more responsive and inclusive, where anyone who wishes to may have a say. We have multiple committees that are advisory to the Board and they have great influence in decision making. Board meetings are open and we are all accessible. But what we have repeatedly encountered is that every time the group disagrees with the Board, we are painted as unresponsive and authoritarian. The staff and Board experiences rounds of intimidation and accusatory language. It is unhealthy and paralyzing.

Another major factor in our long-standing difficulty with the group is that they do not use KRFCs established ways of communicating. KRFC encourages everyone to speak directly and openly with each other for problem solving. We believe that ongoing positive dialogs foster understanding and compromise. Unfortunately, the 3 members who were dismissed have never engaged the Board and staff in any ongoing, constructive dialog. They do not talk to us routinely about their concerns, and they dont attend our meetings. Instead, they sit back and watch, and then, when decisions are made that they dont agree with, they use public forums for airing their opinions and organizing opposition. Due to their dysfunctional style of communicating, our impression is that they want things to always go their way, and if they dont they raise hell. The multiple public attacks leveled on KRFCs leadership over the years have not been remotely constructive they harm morale and alienate other volunteers.

This time around, a decision was finally made that we are unable to function in this ongoing unhealthy environment. Past dialogs and temporary reconciliations didnt change their behavior. We need to be free to move forward and to focus on the real work of growing a community radio station. In accordance with our by-laws, we revoked the memberships of 3 people because we strongly believe they have worked repeatedly against the best interests of the station.

7) We are not operating under basic cooperative principals.
We dont function as a co-op or collective. Like almost all non-profit corporations, we have a Board of Directors and a Station Manager who manage the station and committees that are advisory to them. We have guiding documents that stress the importance of inclusiveness in our organization. The concept of inclusiveness in our volunteer driven radio station is important to all of us. We will continue to work towards the goal of maximizing inclusiveness at KRFC, within a positive, supportive environment.

8) The Board will not agree to mediation.
The pain felt on both sides concerning the dismissals of 3 members doesnt negate the appropriateness of the decision. Sometimes, people and groups need to give up and walk away from chronically negative situations. We felt and still feel that our decision was not only fitting, but overdue. We have a responsibility to the rest of the KRFC family to protect the environment at the station, to create a healthy place conducive to getting things accomplished, and to ensure that the Board and Station Manager can do their jobs. We dont believe that there is anything to mediate. We made a difficult decision and have moved on.

9) We glossed over this problem in our recent newsletter.
From the reaction and support we have received from our KRFC family it doesn t look to us as though this is a major problem to be addressed in a newsletter. It has been painful for some, but in fact the station is doing well. The strategic planning process has on the whole been very positive and exciting. Kate Tarasenkos excellent article reflects her take on how things went.

10) There is a change in the direction of the station and the Board is damaging KRFC.
We have expressed our sincere rebuttal of this fear in this document. The only way our sincerity can be proven will be over time. We hope that you will participate, enjoy and watch KRFCs progress.