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VPT Staff Members Want Board Resignations

VPR/Steve Zind
VPT staff member Chuck Bongiorno reads a letter signed by 19 staff members requesting the resignations of board leadership.

A roomful of concerned Vermont Public Television supporters turned out at a meeting of VPT’s board of directors Monday.

Those who spoke expressed unhappiness about violations of Corporation For Public Broadcasting open meeting rules, which were confirmed last week after an internal review. 

The CPB, which provides financial support to the station, is also conducting an inquiry.   

The meeting was the first since the board acknowledged that it had violated a provision of the Corporation For Public Broadcasting’s open meeting rules.

Last month both Vermont Public Television and the Corporation For Public Broadcasting received an anonymous complaint from someone claiming to be involved in the organization.

The complaint alleged that board Chair Pamela Mackenzie and Vice-Chair Rob Hoffmann conducted board business during meetings that were improperly warned and recorded. The letter alleges there were more than 20 such meetings over a one year period.

The board’s audit committeeannounced last week that its preliminary review indicates there were meetings held behind closed doors because they involved personnel matters, but they were not properly warned.

"We felt it was important to make sure that we brought light to what was going on. Now, after today, we're hoping to fade into the background and do our jobs." -Chuck Bongiorno, VPT Major Gift Director

“We did not properly provide a notice following the meeting that such a session had been held by way of stating the group that met, the date of the meeting and the reason for the meeting; the reason being a personnel matter. Had we done that, we wouldn’t be in the middle of this current discussion,” board member Thomas Pelletier who heads the audit committee explained.

According to the public media trade publication “Current”, the CPB has been cracking down on stations because many are failing to comply with transparency and open meetings rules.

Among those who spoke during the public comment period of the board meeting was Chuck Bongiorno, major gift director at VPT.

Bongiorno read a letter signed by 19 staff members expressing concern about potential cuts in CPB funding.

The letter says the resignations of Mackenzie and Hoffman from the board could minimize the impact of the rules violations on VPT.

Speaking outside the meeting Bongiorno said staff didn’t feel it was their place to demand the resignations – only to suggest them.

“We felt it was important to make sure that we brought light to what was going on,” he said. “Now, after today, we’re hoping to fade back into the background and do our jobs.  As you can imagine this has been a huge distraction over the last couple of weeks.”

Pelletier says CPB has not indicated if it will impose penalties or fines as a result of any rules violations.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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