The power of the paper trail

March 14 to 20 is this year's Sunshine Week — an annual, nationwide celebration of the critical importance of government openness and freedom of information. Discovering and reporting the inner workings of government is part of Xpress' mission, so it's a week we take special note of.

Trying to change a channel: Davyne Dial, who pushed for the release of records she believed public-access station URTV is obligated to reveal. Photos by Jonathan Welch (unless otherwise noted)

Year round, we maintain the Xpress Files, an online archive of government documents on everything from local development rules to police reports to environmental-impact statements (see mountainx.com/xpressfiles). It's something we typically highlight during Sunshine Week, but this year, we decided to turn the spotlight on local activists who pried open public records and used them to advance their respective causes. Here's what they had to say.

URTV dispute

Who: Davyne Dial, former URTV producer and board member

What was your mission, and how did you get involved?

"While on the board, we had questions about the financial records; we wanted management to be a little more forthcoming. When I started asking questions, I was sent an e-mail by the board president [Jerry Young] telling me I was suspended." Dial was later removed in a controversial vote by URTV members.

How did you get the public records?

"We still haven't gotten them. Through an attorney we requested the records, and their attorney said they didn't have to provide the records. We pressed hard, lobbying City Council [which, along with Buncombe County, oversees the public-access channel]."

What obstacles did you encounter?

Toxic crusaders: From left: Aaron Penland, Barry Durand and Tate MacQueen, part of a group of activists who have used public records to push for cleanup of the former CTS of Asheville site.

"It was such a fight, and we encountered such hostility. I was suspended, then removed. We started to ask: Why this fight over some basic records? The fight still continues."

What did you find in the records, and what did you do with that information? What impact has it had?

"We're still waiting on the records, but in the city's new management agreement, they clamped down with requirements that URTV be open about its meetings and records. I think society would be better if things were more open and transparent, and this was my way of pressing for that wall to open up just a crack." After Dial and other activists pressed for greater openness, URTV also began allowing its meetings to be filmed, abolished a controversial secrecy oath for board members and started posting more meeting minutes online.

Any advice for other activists seeking to find and use public records to advance their cause?

"I suggest that they think carefully about what a whistle-blower can expect and about their next steps when they face opposition. You're going to get a lot of hostility. But if you're in the right, stay the course anyway. You have no good reason to back down."

Contaminated wells

Who: Residents living near the contaminated former CTS of Asheville site

What is your mission, and how did you get involved?

"To get the truth about contamination and protect our families and communities," Tate MacQueen explains. He and his fellow activists got involved after seeing fliers distributed by Barry Durand detailing the contamination.

How did you get the public records?

Prying into Parkside: Elaine Lite, with People Advocating Real Conservancy, obtained Buncombe County records that helped critics mount an opposition to the proposed Parkside condominiums.

Through Freedom of Information Act requests and "150- to 300-page reports that [the agencies] don't expect you to read through," says MacQueen. "We've gotten everything we've needed, because they are legally obligated to give it to us."

What obstacles did you encounter?

"First the county took action, but since then, they've dragged their feet about getting water to homes that might be in danger," says fellow activist Aaron Penland. The activists also assert that officials have dragged their feet on serious cleanup while contamination spreads.

"There's been a consistent attempt to find another source of contamination instead of cleaning up the one they already know about [beneath the CTS site]," adds MacQueen.

"This is a coverup; they want it to be," asserts Penland. "Make no mistake about that."

What did you find in the records, and what did you do with that information? What impact did it have?

"We got a 2002 report from the EPA stating that the site was an imminent threat," says Penland. "It was signed by Don Rigger, who's now the EPA cleanup director for the Southeast." The document, says Penland, contradicts EPA and state Department of Environment and Natural Resources claims that the site is not a health risk. "We took that to the county, and they ran water to some of the homes in the area [whose wells might be in danger of contamination]. We had a congressional field hearing with Rep. Heath Shuler and other meetings with local, state and federal officials." The activists have formed a nonprofit fund to help fund independent local testing.

Any advice for other activists seeking to find and use public records to advance their cause?

"You have to have the support of your community," advises Penland. "If you don't have those numbers, they'll just brush you aside."

The attention that the activists have drawn to the issue, says MacQueen, is "a testament when a community comes together, puts aside personality differences, puts aside ego and works to achieve a goal. In this case, we want this cleaned up; we want further impact stopped. It's a lesson in the need to do due diligence on these reports, to question the methodology."

The Parkside fight

Who: Asheville resident Elaine Lite, representing People Advocating Real Conservancy, a local grass-roots group

What was your mission, and how did you get involved?

Cop watchers: A leaked law-enforcement document helped Steve Rasmussen and Dixie Deerman work with other activists to hold the Asheville Police Department accountable.

"PARC joined with numerous other community activists and citizens to stop construction of Parkside Condominiums at Pack Square Park — a property that was viewed as public parkland. We also demanded the return of a piece of park property that was 'mistakenly' sold by the county to developer Stewart Coleman. This issue struck a common chord with the community, since so many people were already frustrated by the loss of green space witnessed in recent years across our mountains. The aged magnolia tree that sits on the property became a symbol of all the trees that had been lost to development."

How did you get the public records?

"We made a formal request to the county manager's office; we had to request them more than once. Copies were finally made, and we picked them up."

What obstacles did you encounter?

"No serious obstacles, but they certainly didn't respond to our first request — more like second or third. I'm sure they were hoping we'd forget about it and go away. We didn't."

What did you find in the records, and what did you do with that information? What impact has it had?

"Several folks spent time examining the records, including Barry Summers and Gordon Smith. Among other things, we found evidence that county staffers were pressuring the Pack Square Conservancy to support the Parkside proposal, including hints that county funding might be at risk if the conservancy didn't play ball.

"Also, we found evidence that senior county staffers intended to see the magnolia parcel sold for development long before Stewart Coleman purchased it, undermining the argument that it was all just a mistake on the part of the county. We published these online, and we believe it helped seal the public perception that this deal should be opposed."

Any advice for other activists seeking to find and use public records to advance their cause?

"Yes: Just do it! Citizens have the right to request public records. When researching, don't rely on one source. … If you can't find what you're looking for in official records, research elsewhere. Don't be intimidated — by anyone. As a citizen, you are simply exercising your right to participate in the process and gather information."

Policing the APD

Who: Steve Rasmussen, Dixie Deerman and other core members of Asheville Justice Watch (Barry Summers, David Lynch, Bruce White, Karen and Jerry Vaneman, and Bruce Elmore Jr.)

What was your mission, and how did you get involved?:

"Asheville Police Department reacted brutally to a peaceful anti-war demonstration in March 2003, and we [Dixie and Steve] and Barry were among dozens arrested and mistreated. With activists from the local ACLU and African-American community, we formed Asheville Justice Watch to expose and end the APD's entrenched brutality and corruption, and to push for a Citizens Police Review Board that would investigate complaints."

How did you get the public records?

"Black, female and pro-union APD officers quietly cheered us on because they suffered from the racism, sexism and favoritism that pervaded APD under [then] Chief Will Annarino's regime. A female officer contacted AJW and slipped us a copy of the confidential 'Asheville Police Department Policy Manual.'"

Go getter: Don Yelton, a political activist and occasional candidate, and two colleagues successfully sued Buncombe County more than a decade ago over an issue regarding access to public records. Here, Yelton stands on the steps of the Buncombe County Board of Elections to make a point about early voting. Photo by Jason Sandford

What obstacles did you encounter?

"We did not even know the manual existed until the officer volunteered it. She knew APD's top brass were constantly breaking their own policies and rules. The hardest part was slogging through the fat bureaucratic tome, but between us, Dixie and I read and made notes about every single page."

What did you find in the records, and what did you do with that information? What impact did it have?

"AJW publicized two key policies: 1) When an officer used physical force against a citizen (beatings were common then), he was required to charge the citizen with resisting arrest. 2) APD's 'media policy' forbade officers to make 'unsolicited information releases' or give a reporter 'preferential treatment.' When Annarino ruined Brian Peterson, the only city Council member who stood up to him, with a slanderous, unsolicited "leak" to the Citizen-Times exclusively, we exposed his violation of his own media policy. He abruptly retired shortly afterward, and we compelled the city to include the public in the search for his successor (Chief Bill Hogan)."

Any advice for other activists seeking to find and use public records to advance their cause?

"Find the standards public officials profess to follow, and hold them to them. The most effective weapon for bringing down a corrupt official is his or her own hypocrisy. People shrug their shoulders at brutality, greed and lies in high places — but they won't tolerate a public figure who's revealed to practice the opposite of what he preaches."

The Corridor K road

Who: Southern Environmental Law Center, Asheville branch

What is your mission, and how did you get involved?

The Southern Environmental Law Center was founded 20 years ago with the goal of protecting the Southeast's natural environment. One of the cases they worked on last year concerned the environmental impacts of the proposed Corridor K road through the Nantahala National Forest.

How did you get the public records?

"We made a public-records request for the [state Department of Transportation's] environmental-impact study," reports Senior Attorney D.J. Gerken.

What obstacles did you encounter?

"No obstacles that time," Gerken recalls. "During the Bush years, we encountered a lot more obstacles to open-records requests than we ever have from the state level." That's changed, he reports, though an executive order from the Obama administration has had "mixed results depending on the agency, which is typical."

What did you find in the records, and what did you do with that information? What impact did it have?

"We wanted to know if the study backed up the idea that at any point there would be enough traffic to justify the four-lane road they were proposing. There wasn't. Probably partly because of that, the Army Corps of Engineers later instructed them to do a much more modest two-lane road. The difference in footprint between the projects was huge."

Any advice for other activists seeking to find and use public records to advance their cause?

"This may sound strange, but be cognizant of the burden these requests can place on the agencies involved. It's usually more effective if you're willing to work with them and focus the information you're pursuing, instead of — and I know this sounds funny from me — the more lawyerly approach of requesting everything to do with a certain topic. I've found you get the information faster that way. Of course, sometimes you still have to scream and yell."

Three against the county

Who: Don Yelton, former co-host of No Holds Barred, a public-access cable-television show focused on local political issues.

What was your mission, and how did you get involved?

In 1999, Yelton and fellow citizen activists Mike Morgan and Peter Dawes (the show's other co-hosts) were submitting regular public-records requests to various Buncombe County government departments and agencies.

At the urging of County Manager Wanda Greene, the commissioners adopted a "multiple-information-request policy" that took effect in April of 1999. The policy required all requests for public records to be made in writing and gave Greene 10 days to respond.

How did you get the public records?

Yelton, Dawes and Morgan filed suit against the county, and in August of 1999, Superior Court Judge Loto Caviness found that state law "does not provide for a gatehouse." Citizens, the judge ruled, have a right to inspect public records, and the keepers of them must allow it.

"That was a precedent-setting case," notes Yelton.

What obstacles did you encounter?

Being forced to file a lawsuit was the biggest obstacle, says Yelton. Greene testified that the county policy had been implemented because the plaintiffs were bullying county workers. Several employees were "reduced to tears" after dealing with one of them, she said. The judge urged the plaintiffs to be courteous when seeking their information, noting that there's "no need for abusive behavior or threatening language."

Yelton, however, disputes Greene's contention, saying, "The case got to be dirty."

What did you find in the records, and what did you do with that information? What impact has it had?

"When we started asking questions, we found out that not all boards and commissions were keeping minutes as they were supposed to," Yelton reports. "We started asking for more records," and that's when the county adopted its policy.

As for impact, says Yelton, "It made them hide even more."

Any advice for other activists seeking to find and use public records to advance their cause?

"Do not have a thin skin, and do not worry about what the major media says about you or your political party or the people in power. If you know you're right, plow ahead."

To learn more about Sunshine Week, visit www.sunshineweek.org.

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79 thoughts on “The power of the paper trail

  1. yes,yes,yes…… happy sunshine week…
    thanks to all,and keep up the good work…
    so much more work needs to be done,but this gives me hope…
    i hope that everyone will take a good look ,and back all of these folks up in every way./ they need it so much,and we need them.. A+.

  2. Don Yelton

    Thanks for this article not because you discussed what I did. I also was the one that had the 2002 letter for the CTS site.

    I drove to Atlanta and copied records and then demanded and pushed my congress man to get the letters to the potential responsibiliyt party.

    What scares me is that the head of Region IV EPA told me at the Skyland Fire Department that today they do not give that information out. Tate and Barry will show us all why in the very near future.

    Your advice is so correct. You better not be faint at heart when you start to demand that your rights be honored.

    Actually if the opposite ends of the political spectrum mentioned in this article worked together for open records, transparent government and accountablity we would get it.

  3. Barry Summers

    Actually if the opposite ends of the political spectrum mentioned in this article worked together for open records, transparent government and accountablity we would get it.

    Don, I don’t know if you’re referring to folks like me there, but we absolutely want transparency and accountability. As I’ve said before, I respect you & your passion for getting at the facts, even if we come from different ideologies. I would rather fight over issues with you than someone who plays hide & seek with what they’re really up to.

    Good on ya for sticking to your guns.

  4. I am honored to be included in this article with the other activists. And I’d like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Richard Bernier, who along with myself was privately and publicly ridiculed, demonized and maligned for simply asking that the laws governing non profits and publicly funded entities be adhered to.

    I also owe a lot of gratitude to others who extended themselves anonymously, you know who you are. And we understand why you must remain anonymous.

    It is perplexing to me that a publicly funded entity like our public access is not required by our elected officials and paid public staff, to follow the contract. Public access is acting like they are totally financially independent and not funded by the citizens of Buncombe County. This is a travesty toward our citizens, and is unacceptable.

    I am now wondering what other contracts are just words on paper and our officials look the other way when agreements are not upheld.

    I alerted both the county and the City on numerous occasions in person at official meetings and via written correspondence, of non compliance. I was met with great lip service, but no concrete support when I informed the Chairman of the County Commission that requests for public records had resulted in my “suspension.” The City has been bit more responsive, but still, the management agreement is very clear, and my observations is many of the requirements were not and are not being met.

    See URTV City and County documents here:
    http://www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles/urtv_in_asheville_and_buncombe_county

    When the likes of Don Yelton, Tim Peck, Richard Bernier John Blackwell and myself, and others (for the reason of those supporters being denied the ability to broadcast their public access shows if their support were revealed,) shall remain anonymous, can agree on something like transparency, we obviously have point. First time I met Don Yelton, we got into a knock-down drag-out, over our opposing political views. But here we are in perfect agreement.

    Thank you Mountain Express for your continuing, EDGY, in-depth reporting on community matters. Let the sun shine in.

  5. ashevillelokel

    Ms. Lite contradicts her own assertion that the sale of the property to Blackdog was a “mistake” when she stated that the sale of the “Magnolia property” was “planned long before the sale of what is now Mr Colemans’ parcel…. the site of Packs Tavern” … it seems Ms. Lite (like so many others) prefers to give her version(s) of the truth … kinda’ like FAUXNEWS (FOX).

  6. In “Policing the APD,” I should have noted that current Chief Hogan instituted a great many reforms in the APD and cleaned it up considerably. It’s a far better and more professional department today, from all we’ve seen and heard (including from veteran officers). That policy requiring cops to charge those they abuse with resisting arrest, for instance, is long gone, Dixie and I have been told, Hogan gave the most corrupt high-level police their walking papers.

    Better certainly doesn’t mean perfect, of course, and there will always be a need in every town for citizen oversight of the police — someone to “watch the watchmen”. That torch here is being carried nowadays by Asheville Copwatch (http://www.policeoversight.com/), which takes complaints of police abuse at (828) 398-4817 and follows up on them.

    – Steve Rasmussen

  7. Barry Summers

    Ms. Lite contradicts her own assertion that the sale of the property to Blackdog was a “mistake” when she stated that the sale of the “Magnolia property” was “planned long before the sale of what is now Mr Colemans’ parcel…. the site of Packs Tavern”

    No contradiction there, Lokel. That’s what the “quotation marks” are for – to point out that “mistake” is what they called it, but the evidence suggests that wasn’t a “mistake” at all. Get it?

    BTW, that second sentence you have there in quotes, I can’t find that exact sentence anywhere in what Elaine wrote. Did you just sort of… make that up and put quotes around it? That’s a little hinky, dude.

  8. HKUSP

    I think you need to check your research on your statement of “corrupt high-level police”, Steve.

    That’s a pretty slanderous, unsubstantiated message.

  9. Gale Kilmer

    When public records are withheld and excuses are made for not making them public, it’s time for everyone to not ask, but DEMAND that they be seen. It’s usually the first sign that there is something to hide by someone. In this case several “someone’s” apparently.

    This kind of stuff goes on in the federal government, but it looks like we need to keep our eyes open right here in our own city and start asking a lot more questions. I commend all those who have.

  10. “When public records are withheld and excuses are made for not making them public, it’s time for everyone to not ask, but DEMAND that they be seen.”

    When the records are denied, the next step is to seek them through legal means. Most people back off, when it come to putting down hard cash to retain an attorney…and the individuals doing the denying KNOWthat fact. That is how they get way with non-compliance.

    BTW to official term when one ends a written request (I’ve sent several) is a “demand” letter.

    You are spot on….this is going on everywhere. But the only way to put a dent in it, is to do it locally. Nationally is too much for one person.

  11. I think you need to check your research on your statement of “corrupt high-level police”, Steve.

    That’s a pretty slanderous, unsubstantiated message.

    Sounds like you had a friend involved, HKUSP?

    It’s not slander when it’s true. As for substantiation … if you really want to dig up old bodies (so to speak), you could review which officers lost their jobs or took early retirement shortly after Hogan came in, though of course officially each of those individuals undoubtedly just wanted to spend more time with their families. I think it’s good they’ve moved on, and I don’t want to dredge those names back up myself.

    Newcomers to Asheville (and maybe a few old-timers) have no idea what a different town this was politically up till just a few years ago. Getting a way better chief of police and city manager — two officials who can wield a lot of unhealthy power here if they choose to, thanks to our city charter — has made an enormous difference, though of course that’s not the only thing.

  12. First of all, URTV is not part of the “government.” That is simply not how public access works. Never has, never will. URTV is an organization commissioned to run one of three cable channels – PEG channels. URTV is made possible by a deal brokered by the city/county in a deal brokered with our cable company, Charter Communications. In exchange for running cable through out our community and profiting immensely, Charter is required – thanks to Barry Goldwater in 1984 – to offer three channels of its bandwidth for the public good – Public Access, Education and Government channels – P. E. G. For the longest time Asheville had the Education and Government channels up and running. But for some very odd reason, the Public Access channel was never brought to fruition, indeed, I believe a lawsuit had to be threatened in order to get it rolling. There have always been people who do not want the Public Access end of the spectrum to succeed, much less even get started.

    Why is this? Because public access is a free speech platform in the every expanding digital vacuum of “TV land.” It is the one channel on the entire 900 channel digital spectrum that is not managed by either a government, educational or corporate agenda. People can run ANY kind of program they want there, be it a documentary on the harmful effects of bottling water in plastic, to speculation about those that arranged and perpetrated the events of 9/11, to some absurd puppet show. Anything goes on this channel and that makes some people uncomfortable and so they try to put it down and destroy its viability. They try to impugn its management with vague innuendo that gullible/incompetent editors/staff writers see fit to publish because they don’t want to touch real stories and it passes for some sort of relatively benign “controversy,” which might at least get a few nay-bobs to come online and post a comment, like I am guilty of doing right now.

    As per usual, Davyne fails to specify what “records” she is actually looking for, and dynamite managing editor/reporter on the spot, Jon Elliston, fails to ask this most basic of journalistic questions: “What information do you believe is being withheld from you? What actual records do you seek from the city?” Another milquetoast investigation, partial exploration of some of the facts. (Go figure.)

    Just so you all know, there is no real fight here that “continues”, because no one – including everyone who read the normative half-ass article penned above -has any earthly idea what “records” Davynne is looking for. All pertinent records regarding the management of URTV’s finances are filed with the city. URTV complies with all mandated audits and come through with a clean bill of health every time.

  13. R.Bernier opinions

    *Dude, Where’s My Paper?*
    “URTV complies with all mandated audits and come through with a clean bill of health every time”.

    Thats a good spin however here is a video that clearly shows how the current exective director, Mrs. Pat Garlinhouse & members of the board broke Open Board Meeting Laws of NC.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFfV2Ge4HQI

    This along with an “oath of office” was found to be out of line & URTV had to pull the oath.

    Thank you very much Davynne for sticking to your guns, we will keep public access but we must keep it open & honest.

    RB

  14. Thank you, Richard, for the YouTube non sequitur that has nothing to do with Davynne being supposedly “stonewalled” by the city about some make believe “tell all” records that would some how indite URTV and the City of Asheville for some kind of financial wrong doing in the management of URTV’s scant funding.

  15. I have a letter dated Oct. 9, 2009, from NC’s asst. Attorney General, Grayson Kelley, stating URTV is publicly funded, and as such it must follow open record laws and must reveal any records deemed public records.. Who are you gonna believe, DCJ or the state Attorney General’s office?

    Public access television
    Main article: Public-access television

    In 1969 the FCC issued rules requiring all CATV systems with over 3500 subscribers to have facilities for local origination of programming by April 1, 1971. The date was later suspended. In 1972, Dean Burch steered the FCC into a new area of regulation. It lifted its restrictions on CATV in large cities, but now put the burden of more local programming on CATV operators. In 1976, the FCC used its rule making power to require that new systems now had to have 20 channels, and that cable providers with systems of 3500 subscribers or more had to provide PEG (public, education, and government access) channel capacity, and facilities and equipment necessary to use this capacity.

  16. Davynne, that is not the question. The question is simply this: what specific records do you feel that you cannot get your hands on? What records are being withheld from you? Name those records that the city is holding onto that it won’t let you see.

    Spell it out already … or get off the pot.

    ;-}

  17. @ “Dude, Where’s My Journalism”

    Back again with more of your megalomaniacal screeds, that use smoke ‘n mirrors & circuitous logic to obfuscate the issues?

    I do not have to produce any documents for you,  as you are not the arbiter in this story.

    Mountain Express does back up their investigative reports with facts. They ask for, and received all the proper documentation from me and the other activists in this article. Do you honestly believe they conjured up these events out of whole cloth?????

    Someone recently suggested that you establish your own publication after your numerous unjustified attacks, that were highly critical of Mountain Express’ lack of edgy reporting.   You seem seriously frustrated and in need of a creative outlet. The work involved in establishing your own publication would be a good outlet for that frustration.

    For me…..I’m done dialoging with you on this issue.

  18. I do not have to produce any documents for you, as you are not the arbiter in this story.

    How absurd can you get? You make false claims to the press that the city government – not URTV – is withholding crucial documents from you. Then you want me to believe that you named said repressed documents to the Mt Express writer/stenographer, but that they, for some odd reason, left the names of the explicit records out of the “piece.”

    Davynne, get real. If you honestly believe some sort of record is being withheld from you, name the record. It is pretty simple and reasonable request. Otherwise, shut your trap already.

  19. um, Matt, I have already been hired by the Xpress to write things in the past … I would be happy to write again for them, if they want to pay me. But why should they, when I write so much superior investigative journalism for them for free in their comment blogs? (Ha, Ha … megalomania to the fore.)

    Seriously, I have suggested several formal ideas:

    I offered to do a piece on a local writer who did a reading at Malaprop’s whose activist husband immolated himself on the steps of the Pentagon during the vietnam war … The Xpress passed.

    I offered to do a weekly column discussing national current events and relating them to WNC … The Xpress passed.

    I offered to do a story Heath Shuler’s phony “blue dawg” stance on health care … The Xpress passed.

    Here is a new one: how about a piece on the phoniness of the so-called “Tea Party” movement … no doubt the Xpress will pass.

    The Xpress, under its current management would rather publish milquetoast & the hackneyed, old-hat, whining of Davynne about a non-issue that even she won’t be “transparent” about. (Show me the name of the records, DD. I am with Don Yelton on this one: FULL TRANSPARENCY from everyone is required.)

  20. For those interested in pursuing the paper trail. The City has public records on paper available, documents filed in Superior Court are available to the public. Minutes and VOD of City Council meetings are available from the City’s website. The City just recently made their minutes searchable with a keyword….which makes research much easier.
    http://webapp.ashevillenc.gov/councilminutes/

  21. Davynne Dial has claimed here that of course the Milquetoast Xpress did their journalistic duty and followed up on her vague claim that “records” are being withheld from her and made sure that her concern was legit by checking with the city for the other half of the story. If that is the case, great …

    SHOW ME THE PAPER TRAIL ….

    What specific records did Davynne request and get stonewalled by the city about?

    (Forbes? Eliston? Anyone?)

  22. Don Yelton

    as I have said if all that want open government demands it we will get it. When you use other people’s money there is a responsibility to those that give the money.

    The givers of the money, be they tax payers or charter subscribers should be given the courtesy of seeing where it goes.

  23. I am in full agreement with Don on this point. All URTV budget reports detailing expenses are made available to the city each quarter, as required. These reports are not secret. Anyone can see them. If Davynne every wants to get specific about what information she claims she is not being allowed to see, I would love to hear all about it. For some reason she can’t bring herself to get specific about the paper trail that she can’t follow.

    Me thinks she is lying about a stonewall to further her flagging attempt to discredit URTV. If she is not lying why won’t she be transparent about the types of records she seeks? (I guess the cat has her tongue.)

  24. I would also like to know which of the three Milquetoast Express journalists played Davynne’s stenographer here, without ever asking the most basic journalism 101 question:

    “WHAT RECORDS ARE YOU SEEKING TO HAVE The CITY RELEASE, DAVYNNE?”

    My guess it was either managing editor Jon Elliston, aiming to piss more people off knowingly publishing a piss poor rehash of a 8 month old faux freshman, David “The Scoop” Forbes screwing off again on an undercover assignment for his old Asheville Daily Planet boss.

    Either way you slice it, you can chalk it up to yet another article for the Milquetoast Files … two and half years of uninvestigative reporting and counting.

  25. R.Bernier opinions

    Hey Dude – Why not trying to be transparent yourself & place your real name on your great journalism here?

    Mrs.Dial was an member elected board member which URTV refused to give her membership information to communcate with members & past members.

    If Mrs.Garlinhouse & Chairman Rev.Jerry Young cant follow open board meeting laws then can you trust them on anything?

    Garlinhouse refused to come to the last few board meetings knowing that she would face hard questions, ask Chairman Rev.Young to confirm this.

    The new agreement reflects many things that Mrs.Dial & I worked hard for – its laid out in black & white so that Mrs. Garlinghouse will understand how to do her job.

    Asheville needs public access but it must stay transparent – public access is a great outlet for our community.

    RB

  26. URTV Member

    PLEASE Davine…. just answer this very simple question:

    What public records haven’t been shown to you?

    Simple question to answer… unless you DON’T have an answer!!!

  27. JB: The only thing that “set me off” is the quality of this “journalism.” It is supposed to be a story about transparency, but Davynne is not being transparent about what records she wants from the city regarding URTV, and the writer never asked the obvious question. I got ticked off that the Xpress would continue to do such a poor job reporting Davynne’s trumped up complaints.

    RB: No one on the board has access to the URTV membership email list except URTV paid staff. It is only to be used for URTV business communication about production and policy. Individual board members, especially ones that have gone off and formed a for-profit splinter channel, don’t get to have access to everyone’s email address for their personal use.

  28. Besides that, this article is supposed to be about exposing PUBLIC records for improving government accountability … exposing a given entity’s entire memberships’ personal email addresses is in no way a valid project in that light.

  29. R.Bernier opinions

    Thank you Mtn.Express – open records must be out in the open. When a person came even give their name then I see no reasons to address that person that fails to give their name.

    I am glad that the city now has provided
    Mrs. Garlinghouse clear documents that will help her due her current duties.

    RB

    I look forward to the days to come.

  30. URTV funding is up on the city council agenda for tuesday. It sounds to me like we should go and oppose until Davyne Dial gets her doccuments, and no funding ever in the event they are lost or destroyed. Will you be there Davyne?

  31. Alan7: Davynne does not actually have a case for any public documents being withheld by the city, or URTV. It is a phony charge. Therefore her segment of the story above that the Xpress ran without corroborating should not have been printed.

    Richard B. makes the claim that he and Davynne were denied a membership list of personal email addresses and that these addresses somehow constitute public records. Such a claim is false, as they are not public records because neither URTV nor its membership is part of the city or county government. Had this aspect of the Sunshine Week story been better scrutinized by whichever of the three writers that wrote it, it probably would never have been incorporated.

  32. Well URTV also has excessive membership fees which they squander on exessive facilities and unnecissarily fancy new technology as all the technology needed to run a cable station was around 15 years ago, and 1995 level tech is now quite cheap. Thus Asheville should withold funding anyway until URTV cuts membership fees, facilities, and technology.

  33. R.Bernier opinions

    Question, does Mrs. Garlinhouse know her job after being in public access for years?

    No… The video shows it all.

    BTW – URTV knows the records that has been asked for, lets see in the days ahead. Hope to see URTV film their board meetings for air soon.

    Many still ask why they fail to film there board meetings.

    We will keep public access however we may need to combind channels to help in the effort in keeping taxes lower.

    RB

    Sunshine….

  34. Dude.
    you must know that davyne has been asking urtv for the financial records…that being that whitch any nonprofit must show,and all this going back to when she was a board member,for god’s sake…
    if you are new to all of this,and do not know what it is all about,you can find out,all about it in old posts. just look under urtv..
    please do not waste our time…

  35. Alan7
    yes i think we need to do just that..
    i hope some more people will come out,and be part of all this..
    i would like to see about 15,or 20 folks show up,and say “stop every thing until davyne gets a look at the financial records for the urtv nonprofit..

  36. To John Blackwell & Richard Bernier and Alan Rosenthal:

    I sat down with Davynne for an hour or so at Greenlife a few weeks back to try to figure out what she needs from URTV. I got ZERO concrete information about any particular public records that she imagines are being with held from her. She had plenty to say about what she did not like about her experiences with URTV, but she was unable to point out any actual record that she cannot get her hands on at this point. (And even here on this thread she still can’t point it out.)

    So what did I learn from Davyne in the course of our conversation at Greenlife?

    Davyne felt demonized by URTV. (Go figure.)

    Here is my understanding of the facts regarding Davyne’s demonization. (If you want to correct me on any of these facts, John Blackwell, I would greatly appreciate it.)

    Fact: When Davyne was a producer at URTV back in the day, she was friends with fellow producers Randy and John Blackwell.

    Fact: Randy had T1 line service he was willing to donate to URTV.

    Fact: The ED was open to this idea.

    Fact: Randy wanted John Blackwell in the T1 loop.

    Fact: The ED did not want Blackwell in the T1 loop.

    Fact: Randy was not going to be micromanaged and chose to bail on the deal. His choice.

    Fact: A rift began to form between these volunteers/member producers and the ED.

    Fact: Randy and Blackwell had a website and a plan to broadcast/stream for profit video created at URTV. Nothing illegal about that. producers own the shows they produce.

    Fact: Davyne wrote something on their website encouraging Randy and John to go forward with their plans for a splinter station. Nothing illegal or even wrong about that.

    Fact: Blackwell intentionally starts selling the idea his URTV live Mad Scientists Tea Party show. This is a blatant violation of Cable Access contract and gets him suspended from URTV. (Right, John?)

    Fact: At some point Davyne meets with the ED and the T1 debacle is discussed and Davyne says that she is “sorry to see push come to shove,” meaning, well, if you push Randy to not allow John to manage the feed, of course he will shove back, and walk with his T1 line. Davyne is sorry to see it all going that way, but she could see why it was happening. Nobody likes to get pushed. Perhaps in the ED’s eyes, Davyne was appearing to choose sides on the matter. Nothing illegal or even wrong about that.

    Fact: Because this push come to shove statement, coupled with the fact of Davyne’s benign supportive public comment on the alternative website, Davyne finds herself on the other side of the growing rift between a few producers and lines are drawn.

    Fact: After the T1 deal went south and John got suspended and the lines were drawn, Davyne and Richard begin asking questions of the board, on which they both served at the time.

    Fact: This questioning eventually spills out into the public, via the Mt Express, and Davyne and Richard begin insinuating a case that the ED is not doing her job very well.

    Fact: Davyne and Richard also cast a newly implemented confidentiality clause as a “secrecy oath” and an attempt to muzzle free speech. This confidentiality clause, which is the norm for many types of boards, is not legal for a board that is required to abide by open meetings laws and so it backfires and Davyne and Richard are allowed to continue saying whatever they want about URTV, the board and the ED to the press, most of it is seen as fairly negative. However, Davyne and Richard are certainly within their right to speak to the press and state their biased cases.

    One of the things Davyne, and Richard and John want are all the email addresses of all the URTV members so they can, 1) bad mouth URTV to each individual URTV producer via email as they have been doing for over a year nbow in the Mountain Xpress, and 2) promote their splinter TV station as an alternative to URTV.

    Fact: Richard claims in the Mt Xpress that ED has set up and runs a corrupt “puppet” board.

    Fact: The ED and the board choose not to respond to these comments in the press, because they wisely intuit that John and Davyne and Richard B. will never let it rest if they respond in any form. (And look where we are a year later, no thanks to the crackerjack journalism/stenography of the Milquetoast Xpress.)

    Fact: Davyne and Richard write a URTV “performance evaluation” and submit it to City Manager Gary Jackson. This slanderous letter is leaked to the URTV board and it doesn’t look good at all. In it Davyne and Richard insinuate all kinds of the dubious allegations about the ED and her former career and her present function at URTV. (This is what we call a whispering campaign.)

    [If Davyne truly wants to continue getting through this maze regarding her becoming a "persona non grata" at URTV, we would need to go point by point through this letter to City Manager Gary Jackson that she and Richard B. wrote. I think that might help us better understand why she was demonized.]

  37. Fact: In Davyne’s speaking to the press, and her letter to the city manager, she doesn’t bring up T1, or John Blackwell’s rightful suspension, or her new TV channel, or how these facts might factor into her witchhunt line of questioning, but instead she continues to insinuate that the ED is not doing her job properly, that she is running off valuable volunteers – one that did not want to compromise on a T1 deal, and another that broke the rules to promote the same T1 line set up and streaming elsewhere. (I would hardly call that “running” anyone off. Randy bailed cause he did not get full control over managing the feed and John shot himself in the foot intentionally violating specific on air rules to promote a competing interest.)

    Fact: Davyne and Richard are eventually removed from the board by the membership because, it is alleged, their decisions to take board matters to the press and decry all kinds of trumped up failures and corruptions at URTV did much more harm than good. I suppose Davyne and Richard B. were within their legal right to make these claims publically, and the board was within its right to remove them both for doing so. It was not a free speech issue. It was an issue of what was best for URTV as deemed by the board and membership. It was deemed that Davyne and Richard B. were doing more harm than good in their approach.

    Fact: At some point, Davyne hire’s a private investigator to look into “shennanigins” transpiring at URTV. (If Davyne ever wants to tell me about that process, I am all ears.)

    Fact: Around this time, Alan Rosenthal appears at URTV and begins haranguing Pat about obscenity laws and certain content on URTV. Pat asks him if he is working with Davyne.

    Fact: Alan Rosenthal contacts Davyne and begins working with her and a few other disgruntled producers to pool their resources in creating an alternative Media Center to compete with URTV. Davyne sees that URTV has not officially registered the name it wants to eventually begin using, “The WNC Media Center,” and so she beats URTV to the punch and takes the name. Nothing illegal about that. Does however FURTHER demonize Davyne in the eyes of URTV staff, board and member/producers.

    Fact: There are now two entities in Asheville/Buncombe claiming to offer the same training and resources to the public. One is URTV – Asheville’s Public Access Channel with a contract with Charter Cable, and the other is Davyne and Alan Rosenthal’s new organization, “The WNC Media Center” with I assume Randy’s T1 feed and John’s technical expertise. It appears that this group is a disgruntled spin off of URTV. Rather than simply part ways and do their own thing, however, under the leadership of Alan Rosenthal, a constant full court press against URTV is sustained in the local media and Council Chambers and before County Commission. Nothing illegal about that. Does however contribute to Davyne’s further demonization.

    Fact: Alan Rosenthal registers The WNC Media Center with Asheville are Chamber of Commerce using Davyne’s home address. Nothing illegal about that. Does however contribute to Davyne’s further demonization.

    Fact: Alan Rosenthal begins emailing URTV staff saying that URTV is a sinking ship and that he can offer them better pay to come work for him at The WNC Media Center. He also begins showing up at City Council Meetings and Buncombe County commissioners meetings and rails against all things URTV. He rails against city choices for city appointed board member board. He terms URTV a harbor for pedophiles. He does everything in his power to smear and weaken the entity, though he has never been a member producer, and has never been seen around town before, and nobody in town knows who he is. He is an unknown variable, until some investigation turns up that he has been engaged in 42 frivolous lawsuits around the country, all of which he lost. And unfortunately, Davyne let him be the registrant for WNC Media Center and let’s him use her home address to register with the Chamber. This contributes to Davyne’s further demonization.

    That is Davyne’s story, and I am sticking to it.

    So what I want to know, you three musketeers, is this:

    How is it going for you over at the WNC Media Center? Are yall still having trouble getting off the ground? Is Randy’s T1 line not quite enough to make it all happen? Is this why you keep up the URTV harangue here on the Xpress Blog and elsewhere?

    I think what we have here is a prolonged case of sour grapes.

    What I would also like to know is why Mt Express sees fit to keep dignifying this dreck without really ever investigating it?

    ?

    (Is freshman David Forbes really this bad of a journalist, or has managing editor Jon Eliston got his mind focused elsewhere, and in his distracted state is prone to letting poorly done stories slide onto the pages?)

  38. Piffy!

    Mr. dude sure makes this a ridiculous thread to read.

    Can one of the writers or editors respond to his absurd claims so i dont have to read him repeating the same questions 37 times?

  39. awwww … pff ?? … that is purty funny, you decrying someone else’s over blown post as “ridiculous.” (I see the pot continues to call the kettle black.)

    The question you should really be asking is why didn’t the article reveal what records Davynne is looking for in the first place.

    The next question you should ask is why Davyne won’t say what records she is looking for.

    ;-}

  40. All that we “three musketeers” have ever wanted is for urtv to be as good as it could be,for everyone..
    any more than that is some thing that has been made up so you may argue,as would a child..
    i will waste no more time with you..

  41. Mr. Jones,
    Is it my refusal to get involved with your crazy world that is compelling you to these outrageous and off the wall, accusations?

    That’s a problem for you….because the fact is I am not obligated to respond to any of your demands.

    As I said earlier, you are not the arbiter here….the courts are. And they deal in facts.

    So go ahead, bounce off the walls some more.

  42. So go ahead, bounce off the walls some more.

    OK, Davyne, thanks for the invite!

    I am glad you want to stick to the facts on this matter. Perhaps you can elaborate on a few basic facts for our readers and then we can take this broken record of the turntable:

    1) What kind of “financial records” are you still looking for that you cannot seem to get from the city government about URTV?

    2) Who did you put your request to with the city? Did you happen to get their name?

    3) Did you ask for these records in writing? If so, can we see a copy of your written request? Can we verify this paper trail with the city, or should we just take your word for it?

    4) What “financial records” did you tell the Mountain Xpress you were looking for when they contacted you about this article?

    5) Why are you now refusing to be transparent about this specific question?

  43. The error the Xpress made here in presenting Davyne’s loopy story without corroborating any of it is really a shame because it besmirches an otherwise good and important story from its outset.

    I talked to managing editor Jon Elliston about this mistake on Friday evening and he said he would look into it today. Perhaps he will be able to ascertain what actual public records Davyne is looking for with the city. If he cannot verify the paper trail that this article is supposed to be all about, perhaps he will see fit issue an apology to URTV and to the Xpress readership for publishing a false story.

  44. The Three Musketeers – John Blackwell, Richard Bernier & Alan “007″ Rosenthal – plus their Lady in Waiting, Davyne Dial – are here making their last ditch effort to denigrate URTV in the press, rallying around a false story about some withheld public records that the Xpress has yet to corroborate. (I hope Eliston can recall our conversation Friday night.)

    However, if they can’t come up with an answer to the question, “What actual verifiable records were you seeking from the city government,” then it looks like this may be their Waterloo … and the Xpress owes some people an apology.

    Here! Here!

  45. Jon Elliston

    DCJ,

    You asked which of our reporters handled the URTV part of this story package; it was David Forbes. You’re within your rights to make snide jabs and him and the paper, and at me, for that matter. But David’s a damn good reporter, and I think you unfairly malign him.

    As to which records Davyne hasn’t been able to obtain, she sent me this list, from a September request she says she made that, she says, hasn’t been fulfilled:

    “Accounting Records and Financial Information Demanded To Be Inspected and/or Copied are as follows:

    1. A complete list of all URTV Inc. expenditures by date including vendor, amount, and description for the period of September 15, 2006 through September 15, 2009.

    2. A complete list of all URTV Inc. incoming funds by date including source, amount and description for the period of September 15, 2006 through September 15, 2009.

    3. The most recent URTV Inc. audit report received for the period ending June 30, 2009. (even if only preliminarily presented to URTV Inc. by the auditor).

    4. All URTV Inc. check registers covering all transactions from September 15, 2006 through September 15, 2009.

    5. All URTV Inc. credit card statements showing all credit card transactions cleared from September 15, 2006 through August 31, 2009.

    6. All IRS Form 1099s issued by URTV Inc. to contract labor or other non-employees as required by IRS from September 15, 2006 through September 15, 2009.”

    Davyne, do I understand that those are the records you requested and can’t get? Please let us know.

    Also, DCJ, Davyne says that she did not hire a private investigator, so that therefore your allegation is false. I don’t know if she did or not.

    I hope the two of you can discuss this openly, as I’d rather not referee this conversation.

    Thanks,

    Jon

  46. “I hope the two of you can discuss this openly, as I’d rather not referee this conversation.
    Thanks,
    Jon “

    Jon, I believe it is a useless endeavor to attempt reasonable dialog with Mr. Jones. I’ll let your comment stand along with the article.

    If Mr/ Jones continues with his wild, libelous accusations, half truths and twisted logic, I may see him in court, also.

  47. R.Bernier opinions

    Ok, so this is David Conner Jones who now sits on the Board of Directors at URTV. If I recall David, you stated it was very hard to work with Mrs. Garlinghouse – is that still true?

    David, you must be aware of what records that Mrs.Dial has asked for because of the fact that you sit on the Board of Directors if the exective director failed to share this type of information then what elese is she failing to do as all.

    As a Board Member I would want to know about any possible legal issues that relate to the duties of the Board of Directors.

    I am proud of our stance to be open maybe you should try it for a change.

    Richard Bernier
    URTV Board Member
    2008-2009

    David – If you cant be open then vote me off:
    http://www.zshare.net/video/6288203403e6b73f
    notice that the exective director was missing

  48. Thank you, Jon Elliston, for finally publishing here the explicit public records that Davyne seeks from the city government about URTV’s financial history.

    I had never seen this specific list until today, March 22, 2010.

    I was alarmed that Forbes did not appear to ask for this specific information in his interview. If he did ask for it, it seems to me like it would have been a good journalistic practice to include the information in the story.

    Basically, it appears that Davyne wants to play self-appointed auditor to the private non-profit, URTV Inc. What she still doesn’t seem to understand is that she has no legal right to do this. (It would sort of be like me coming to the Mountain Xpress and demanding all this same type of information.) The city of Asheville negotiates a contract between URTV and Charter to manage the Public Access end of the PEG spectrum. URTV is responsible for responding to all City requests for this type of information that Davyne requests in the form of regular audits, which it has always done and will no doubt continue to do. So far, no city audit of URTV has turned up any malfeasance that I am aware of.

    I think the only valid public record that Davyne seeks in this list of 6 items that Jon has posted is the request to see a City audit. None of the other items she requests are actually a matter of public record and so they have no business being part of this story about government accountability.

    The other question to ask here is this: Is the city really even stonewalling Davyne on the only legal public document she has a right to request – the URTV audit. I do not know because Forbes didn’t follow through and see if in fact the city is refusing to share its periodic audits of URTV.

    So Jon, while Forbes may be a “damn fine journalist,” as you maintain in his defense here, I would simply say he appears to have been off his game in this instance.

    I don’t know what else to tell Davyne. She appears to be barking up the wrong tree. She might want to hire a private investigator to help her find the right tree, if she hasn’t already. Nothing illegal or malevolent in doing that. (Indeed, I thought she told me she had, but I appear to have been mistaken.)

  49. So, Mr. Connor Jones Dude, after ranting obsessively at Ms. Dial over her supposed refusal to be “transparent” about the records she sought, railing repeatedly at her for not producing the list, insulting practically everybody in Asheville who dares to question the bizarre goings-on at URTV … you finally get Jon to post that list of records Ms. Dial is seeking.

    And your suddenly terse response is:
    None of the other items she requests are actually a matter of public record … so as a private non-profit you refuse to reveal them.

    Nice work — you perfectly confirmed her point about URTV’s cover-ups. This is exactly why URTV’s leadership has made itself a juicy target for journalists to investigate. What are you trying to hide from public scrutiny behind your blast-wall of rhetoric?

    URTV is supposed to be our public-access television, but you all are treating it like your private fiefdom. Do you and your fellow board members really not get how much you come off like the board of Enron?

  50. yes *Diuvei
    you see how they like to play the game at urtv..
    i was there,and that is how they played the game with me to kick me out.. they did the same to davyne ,and many others..
    they just make up rules as they go,but they will not follow them..
    something is just not right about people who work like that..
    when pat garlinghouse took over we had over 600 members,and now i do not know if they have 100..
    please come to city council..
    Alan7 please come too,and talk to the Dude..
    this could all be fun..

  51. Yeah, John Blackwell was there, and he did play a role in trying to promote Alan and Davyne’s alternative public access channel on his show, which was a violation of Public Access bylaws, and he was suspended for it. Not very surprising.

    This article is supposed to be about using public records to expose government malfeasance. Most of the financial records Davyne supposedly requested, according to Jon’s list here, are not public records. Forbes never looked into that fact and just assumed Davyne’s request was legitimate.

    The fact is you do not have expose your financial records to any joe blow, especially if that joe blow is known to be spearheading a competing interest with Alan Rosenthal in an effort to get the city to negotiate the next Charter contract with said unproven splinter station. (Why anybody can’t see the logic of that is beyond me.)

    I sat down with Davyne in good faith recently to try understand what she thought URTV was doing wrong in its financial responsibility. I got nothing specific on that point. All I got was long tale of how she felt demonized by URTV.

    I can see why she feels that way. When you trump stories in the press insinuating malfeasance without any evidence, you are generally not going to be appreciated.

  52. Why doesn’t David Forbes do a piece on Davyne and Alan’s competing channel? I mean if he really wants to help them out, why doesn’t he do that for them? Why does he not even mention in his articles that they have set up a competing channel?

    Anybody with a halfway informed journalistic sensibility would want to better understand the relationship between Alan Rosenthal and Davyne Dial as they formed an alliance and created an alternative WNC Media Center/TV channel last summer. This channel was created months before Davyne supposedly submitted some kind of request to the city for all URTV’s financial information in September of last year. (And again, Jon, thank you for batting cleanup for Forbes and providing us with specifics about what information was supposedly requested and when it was requested.)

    Had Forbes investigated this venture of Davyne’s, in light of her phony Cassandra schtick here, he would have discovered that their competing project was publically registered with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce under Alan Rosenthal’s name using Davyne Dial’s personal address.

    Well, if this is true, it presents a very obvious conflict of interest, doesn’t it? I mean here you have a woman who has set up an alternative channel and service, claiming it can do all that URTV does an better, gunning to make a case for her fledgling station and scoop a fairly measly Charter contract through the city. Problem is, nobody is listening to her. So what does she do? She starts hyping negative stories in the media about possible URTV financial malfeasance. It would seem like her goal is to put URTV in the most negative light possible in order to soften the city up for her pitch to take over the contract when it expires.

    An investigative reporter on his game would not have ignored these facts. By not reporting the whole story repeatedly David Forbes has repeatedly failed his journalistic duty. Either David Forbes is not really that good, or he isn’t that real.

  53. David Forbes has stuck to the central story. He’d be wasting his time chasing after every red herring, and wildly imaginary nefarious act, you keep throwing out to obfuscate the real story here…which is why the refusal to tun over public records? If URTV was not financed by th epublic who use Charter, it would be different. The Charter subscribers have no choice , they must pay that PEG fee. So this is the public’s money. OTH, it appears to me Mountain Express is not being supported by public funds, so indeed they are a private business. URTV is simply not a private business. It is a private non profit, but it is PUBLICLY FUNDED. That is why they are obligated to turn over any records anyone asks for.

    The new management agreement adds this in, and specifically states that in Section 5-D that URTV /WNCCMC
    Compliance with the North Carolina Public Records law, N.C.G.S. Chapter 132, shall be prima facie compliance with this Section

    http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_132/GS_132-1.html

    On the WNC Media Center issue….. with so many disenfranchised members / producers (over 500) a group of us thought that there was a possibility of capturing some of the local film, documentary or advertisement market, given that we knew lots & lots of folks who’d been run off from their public access station, & who knew how to film and edit. It was kind of like the URTV Outcast Producers Group….growing bigger all the time. So there was a thought that we could band together. I don’t think there is a law against that.

    Many businesses are moving toward mini-movies to tell their stories or need to film advertisments locally. So we considered this possibility for several weeks. Since the name “WNCMC ” was never registered, it was sitting out there for someone to apply for. We were toying with that idea, and never seriously pursued getting accounts or filming for folks. As most of us already have very full lives. It never was seriously pursued, but you never know., it may blossom into something in the future. Meanwhile I’ll keep the name. If for no other reason that to point glaringly at how ineffecinet and lax with detai,l certain people are. It’s not against the law to take advantage of someone’s sloppiness. After all the main reason the City and County agreed to establish a public access station was for the training and future jobs for people in the area.

    The suggestion that WNCMC could be a direct conflict with URTV is a ludicrous, red herring.. URTV has a channel. and a spot on Charter’s line up. That is what URTV is supposed to be about…a public access TV channel going into the homes of anyone who subscribes to Charter Cable. URTV’s original mission was for this very thing. A digital soapbox for every man or woman in the community, who feels they have something to say to their community. Now the new bylaws only mentions public access once, and the mission statement is just gone. So it is confusing as to what the mission now is.

    RECORDS
    My first request for records was made in late March or early April 2009 a full 6 months before I registered for WNCMC. Last March I spoke with David Gantt and was informed by him that indeed it was my fiduciary responsibility as a Board Member to ask questions and look closely at such things as finances, check book register, credit card receipts, who was being paid for contract labor, etc.
    But when I wrote the demand letter and sent it out to the ED and Board Chair, Jerry Young, I got a terse email back saying I was “suspended,” in direct retaliation for my asking…which at the very least looks bad. At the most, it raised volumes of questions.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to tell my side.

  54. Had Forbes done his job correctly he would have reported specifically what records you sought, when you sought them, how you sought them, and he would have ascertained whether or not any of the documents you sought fall into the category of public records. Five out of the six items you requested do not fall into the category of public record. I don’t believe that you can’t get your hands on the sixth item, an audit from the city.

  55. Well that is it for me..
    i am on to bigger ,and better things..
    i tried ,and wanted to be no my local public access,because my Asheville base is important to me,but i guess it was just not meant to be..

  56. Blackwell: you broke the law on the air on your public access channel. You explicitly advertised a service. You were suspended for that. If you want back on the air, I suspect you can get back on the air. But you will have to want to make amends. If you don’t want to make amends, then I guess you are right, it is not meant to be for you.

    And Davyne, Charter subscribers most certainly do have a choice. Nobody is required by law to subscribe to cable TV. It is their choice. The U.S Government, thanks to Senator Barry Goldwater, has required cable companies to fund the three P.E.G. channels in exchange for the right distribute their for profit services to private citizens who CHOOSE the service.

  57. Candyland

    You all sound like a bunch of spoiled, self-righteous babies with too much time on your hands to throw poo at each other. Davyne, get over your grudge and move on. Blackwell, stop being a hypocrite. Bernier, we know what you are really about and what your true goal is for our station. Diuvie, yes they are treating it like a private fiefdom because this is MORE ABOUT THEIR EGOS at this point than URTV. Dude, where’s my journalism, — DUDE WHERE IS YOUR LIFE, you are way too obsessed with your own snide diatribes. Good night.

  58. NO MORE PATIENCE:

    Rest assured, now that the URTV contract has been renewed by the city with increased funding, I won’t be responding to anyone on these blogs about URTV with my long, drawn-out, redundant, self-aggrandizing diatribes, which I had mixed feelings about doing in the first place. My work countering the destructive spin afforded by David Forbes/Mt Express is done now.

    Let the sunshine in!

  59. Candyland

    Bravo, DWMJ! I have caroused this paper’s website for weeks, and all this heated cyber bickering appears cowardly. I think you all should air this dialogue ON URTV as a seedy morning show. With increased funding, you could do something like “the View,” with special guests.

  60. STAFF REPORT
    http://www.ashevillenc.gov/WorkArea/showcontent.aspx?id=21208

    To: Mayor and City Council Date: March 23, 2010
    Via: Gary Jackson, City Manager
    From: Bob Oast, City Attorney
    Lauren Bradley, Administrative Services Director

    Subject: WNC Community Media Center (formerly URTV, Inc.) Management Agreement
    Summary Statement:
    The consideration of a resolution authorizing the Mayor to sign a one year
    agreement with the WNC Community Media Center (formerly known as URTV, Inc.) for the
    management of public access.

    Review: At its meeting on January 26, 2010, the City Council directed staff to negotiate an
    agreement with URTV, now known as the WNC Community Media Center, for the management
    of public access. Council instructed staff to ensure the agreement clearly addressed (1)
    compliance with open meetings and public records law and (2) compensation and payment
    terms for the duration of the agreement. Council also requested staff provide information about
    the pros and cons of continuing to appoint members to the WNC Community Media Center
    board.
    Staff has negotiated a one-year agreement with the WNC Community Media Center covering
    the period April 26, 2010 to April 26, 2011. Under the terms of the agreement, the city of
    Asheville will pay the WNC Community Media Center $60,000 for management of the public
    access channel. The city will disburse $60,000 in two equal payments of $30,000 on or before
    May 1, 2010 and September 1, 2010. In addition, the agreement includes clauses that require
    the WNC Community Media Center’s compliance with standards set forth in North Carolina
    public records and open meetings laws. In exchange, the WNC Community Media Center will
    operate the public access cable channel and manage a media production facility available for
    public use.
    Compensation
    During the course of negotiating this agreement, the WNC Community Media Center originally
    requested $100,000 in compensation for managing the public access channel. The additional
    revenue was requested to hire a new full-time staff member and expand multi-media training
    and related services provided by the media center. This funding request, however, would
    exceed the total amount of PEG fees collected by the city during the contract period, and would
    require a General Fund allocation to make up the difference. Given current economic and
    budgetary conditions, staff recommends against increasing compensation beyond what PEG
    fees can support.

    Board Appointments
    At the January 26, 2010 City Council meeting, staff recommended that City Council discontinue
    appointing members to the WNC Community Media Center board. Based on staff’s
    recommendation, City Council asked for additional information about the pros and cons of
    appointing board members.
    Programming on public access channels is constitutionally-protected by the First Amendment,
    and as such, governments cannot make editorial or content-based programming decisions. For
    this reason, public access channels are typically managed by third-party organizations like the
    WNC Community Media Center.
    The WNC Community Media Center is a non-profit corporation with its own Articles of
    Incorporation and bylaws. The city of Asheville contracts with the WNC Community Media
    Center as a vendor to provide a service, management of the public access cable channel and
    media center. The contract serves as the city’s mechanism to set forth performance
    requirements and standards for the WNC Community Media Center. Although the city has made
    appointments to the WNC Community Media Center board, those appointments do not make
    the WNC Community Media Center a public agency nor the board a public body.
    The Council’s appointments to the WNC Community Media Center board may give the city
    influence over decisions made by the board, including programming standards. Although this
    may be perceived as a benefit to the city, it also subjects the city to criticism and possible legal
    challenges arising from the Board’s activities. It is staff’s recommendation that these decisions
    be made by a board that is entirely independent of city government. This recommendation is
    consistent with best practices in North Carolina. Staff has been unable to find another city in the
    state that makes appointments to the community’s public access board.
    A benefit of making appointments to the WNC Community Media Center board may be
    receiving regular updates on media center activities from appointees. Staff would recommend
    Council continue to name a Council liaison to the WNC Community Media Center for this
    purpose.
    Pros:
    • The agreement provides for the
    continued operation of a public access cable channel and public media center in
    Asheville.
    • The agreement addresses concerns
    expressed by City Council regarding open meetings and public records, and clarifies the
    city’s payment terms for management services.
    Cons:
    • The loss of the use of PEG funds for
    government television expenses currently covered by the city’s General Fund.
    • According to the WNC Community
    Media Center’s director, the long-term financial sustainability of the facility will require
    increased revenue from the City and Buncombe County.
    Fiscal Impact: Under the proposed agreement, the City will pay the WNC Community Media
    Center $60,000 to manage the Public Access Channel. This payment will be offset by 60,000 in
    PEG fee revenue, which represents 60% of the total PEG fees collected by the City between FY
    2009-2010 and FY 2010-11. Thus, there is no additional impact on the City’s general fund
    budget. PEG fees are collected from cable subscribers and must be spent on public,
    government, or education access activities.

    Recommendation: Staff recommends that City Council approve the Resolution authorizing the
    Mayor to sign the agreement with the WNC Community Media Center for management of public
    access. Staff further recommends removing the clause allowing City Council to make
    appointments to the WNC Community Media Center board from the agreement.
    Attachment:
    (1) Resolution
    RESOLUTION NO. 09-
    RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR TO SIGN AN AGREEMENT WITH THE WNC
    COMMUNITY MEDIA CENTER FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF PUBLIC ACCESS FOR A
    PERIOD OF ONE YEAR.
    WHEREAS, the City of Asheville has authority pursuant to Article 2 of Chapter 160A of
    the North Carolina General Statutes to enter into contracts for services with other entities, and
    has the authority to pursuant to Article 42 of NCGA Chapter 66 to provide for public access
    channels; and
    WHEREAS, the City has supported a local public access channel since November 2004;
    and
    WHEREAS, the existing agreement with the WNC Community Media Center for the
    management of the public access channel expires April 26, 2010; and
    WHEREAS, the City Council wishes to extend the management agreement with the
    WNC Community Media Center to ensure the continuation of a public access cable channel and
    media center for the public;
    NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF
    ASHEVILLE THAT:
    The Mayor is hereby authorized to sign the Public Access Management Agreement
    between the City of Asheville and WNC Community Media Center.
    Read, approved and adopted this 23rd day of March, 2010.
    City Clerk Mayor
    Approved as to form:
    City

  61. R.Bernier opinions

    This is good – the City now has provided URTV & Mrs.Garlinghouse guildlines in black & white to follow which will help her do her job.

    Has URTV ask or work with other venues to get grants or community support or even done fund drives in the last two years?

    I hope they will do what is right, follow the agreement & seek their way and work for funding without the help of the City or County.

    Time will tell.

    RB

  62. JWTJr

    Yeah .. the view … on the Gov’t teet! I’m sure the tax payers will love it.

  63. Secret Service

    It seems to me the criticism of David Forbes is legit.

    Faced with the wild accusations made by Dial and Rosenthal, any journalist would have searched for the answers to these questions BEFORE printing a word of Davyne Dial’s opinions.

    The answers to the following questions would have made the above article a lot more informative:

    1) Did Davyne Dial petition the city council or county commissioners for these documents? What was the outcome?

    2) Are these documents legally considered public records? Who has the knowledge/experience to answer these questions? Can’t Forbes find an expert in this field to ask?

    3a) Is the WNC Community Media Center a government body supported by tax dollars? Can’t Forbes find an expert in this field to ask?

    3b) Is there evidence in the 40 years of litigation history of Public Access to determine an answer to the preceding two questions? Can’t Forbes find an expert in this field to ask?

    ————————————————-

    It seems the Mountain X has conceded Dial’s point that she is entitled to this information.

    There are questions that seem natural to ask about her motivation, some of which have been brought up by Mountain X readers in this and other threads:

    1a) For what purpose does Davyne Dial require these proprietary records? (There are selfish motivations alleged on this and other threads)

    1b) Has Dial used URTV’s proprietary information for personal interest before? (i.e. her WNC Media Center)

    2a) Was she privy to the URTV Board Meetings and subsequent strategy planning sessions while she was on URTV Board of Directors when URTV was considering the name change?

    2b) Did she then take this proprietary information and use it for personal interests?
    (i.e. her WNC Media Center)

    3a) Does this not call into question her “Good Faith” argument when now requesting even more proprietary information? Vendor files, all Producers’ addresses, phone numbers and emails, etc.

    3b) What would she use it for? Have we reason to believe she would use this information for personal interests? (i.e. her WNC Media Center)

    4a) Did she register her WNC Media Center with Alan Rosenthal in the Asheville Chamber of Commerce listing her address as the address of said “Media Center?”

    4b) Is there evidence that Dial and Rosenthal have taken additional steps to prepare for the alleged takeover? Any equipment purchased? Broadband? T-1 line? Registering with the Secretary of State and Asheville Chamber of Commerce, etc? Policies or Bylaws drawn up?

    5) Doesn’t the “Clean Bill of Health” declared by three independent audits completely nullify Dial’s argument that she needs these records to conduct a financial review?

    5b) Isn’t that what an audit is?

    5c) Is Davyne Dial a Certified Public Accountant?

    6) Is there any evidence (other than Dial/Bernier/Rosenthal’s claims) that should warrant this kind of scrutiny?

    Until David Forbes does this level of reporting, his coverage of URTV will continue to leave people confused after reading his articles rather than informed.

    From all the questions raised in the posts of various threads, it leads one to conclude that his reporting doesn’t inform the public of anything other than what Davyne Dial thinks/says.

  64. Oh, yada, yada, yada, Secret Service. More smoke and mirrors.

    Fact is URTV /WNCCNC is required by law to divulge the information I ask for, to ANYONE in the community who asks for it. URTV/WNCCMC is publicly funded, whether they want to admit it or not.

    The agreement says: (1)
    compliance with open meetings and public records law and

    It’s a ridiculous red herring, to throw out the suggestion that someone (me or anyone else), is covertly trying to set up an alternate public access. URTV/WNCCMC has the tv channel #20. No one else can get the channel, or the equipment, or the switch/control room, etc., without city and county management agreements.

    Some entity is going to continue managing the public access station, but it’s NEVER going to be me. I’m perfectly happy doing my designer work. No where is there evidence I am out to usurp control of our community owned facility of public access.

    I did suggest to the City that they consider combining with either the Gov. channel or Ed channel /UNCA, or AB Tech.. And I firmly believe in this day and time, that is a possibility the City & County should seriously consider. It’s ridiculous to have four or five fully built out TV studios (like we now have) all running a lot of re-runs. They could combine the facilities, run the council and commission meetings (live) and the publicy produced programming too. Many other communities combine these entities around the country.

    Especially now that the city has declined to give URTV /WNCCMC and additional $40,000 annually. And since the city was told that URTV/WNCCMC could not survive without the additional funding…. they should begin seriously considering combining the channels and facilities.

    Now why can’t / won’t they reveal the records? This struggle has been going on for almost three years, starting with Peter Brezny, ( who was dismissed and run off), then the Board ask for more transparency and didn’t get it, now me. C’mon, it’s simple, though Secret Service and the other mouthpieces want to try and complicate it, to the hilt.

    It’s a unique position to have this type of struggle play out in the media, like it has for the past year here.

    http://www.mountainx.com/topics/find/URTV

    It’s been a revealing way for everyone to see what kind of scurrilous b.s., harassment and intimidation tactics, you can plan on enduring in the struggle for transparency of a publicly funded entity.

    Like someone else said earlier, this is not for the faint of heart.

  65. Secret Service

    My post above is meant for Xpress Staff and Xpress Readers, not you Davyne.

    Point being, people deserve to know the answers to the questions in my post above and whether or not there is truth to DCJ’s claims in his posts.

    I would love to see them asked by Forbes and Xpress Staff, and the readers of the Xpress deserve to know the answers. (at least the first set!)

    The first set of questions need to be answered by professionals in the field, not Davyne Dial. We KNOW her opinions, they have been printed many times.

    What we don’t have is a expert’s perspective in that area of the law included in the article. It should be a part of Forbes’ reporting to vet Dial’s “facts” before printing them.

    Because if litigation history and expert opinion can verify or denounce Dial’s claims of entitlement, the public can be better informed when deciding with whom it place their trust.

    The second set of questions regarding Dial’s past history and possible motivations for her actions have great validity when trying to determine who to believe. They are not “Red Herrings” if they are true. Most of them are easily verifiable and some of them Dial has even admitted to and then said, “So What?”

    Because if they are true, they paint a rather different version of the story most readers have gotten thus far from the Xpress.

    Let’s have some light on this please?

  66. All that I have asked for is printed above by Jon Elliston…..the fact is any publicly funded entity must adhere to open record law. Anyone can ask for these records.

    North Carolina has one of the nation’s most highly regarded public records laws. It says that unless otherwise specified by law, all records are considered public, to be produced upon request.

    If folks don’t want to follow our state law, I suggest they move on to another state with less stringent law.

  67. good point ms divine..
    maybe someone came from a state with less stringent law.
    maybe they should go back to that state with less stringent law ,and take secret service with them…
    now get…

  68. Just Me

    FYI:

    Most of the things on ‘the list’ can be provided to a Board Member of a non-profit, especially if they are on an internal audit or financial committee. And yes, absolutely do board members have a responsibility to be financially responsible. The website for the NC Center for Non-profits will show this. Funny though, one usually sees the opposite, which is, non-accountants tend to put their trust in the financial committee (usually CPA’s and the like) and allow themselves to think about what to have for dinner instead:

    http://www.compasspoint.org/gallery2/index.php?gid=46&gtid=3

    But, on a less humorous note, if URTV perhaps cannot, or is not required- depending on how their contract reads, to provide all of the information listed (to non-staff, non-board members, non-city oversight), they still have to provide a 990 and audit report, and if they are really good, a statement as to the limitations on providing the other data. It is pretty obvious that you cannot give someone’s 1099 or W-2 to anyone besides that person, or the IRS. And you certainly would not pass out documents with bank account and credit card account numbers. And I would assume that the P & L accounts for the previous years are closed, audited, and reported to the IRS.

    But as a public non-profit they do have to provide at least the 990 and the audit to anyone who asks for them. The 990 does have a lot of information that would show many of the requested items. And it does look… odd to an outsider that a board member requesting more financial oversight procedures was outed, along with another who questioned open-meeting requirements.

  69. “And it does look… odd to an outsider that a board member requesting more financial oversight procedures was outed, along with another who questioned open-meeting requirements.”

    don’t it doe..

  70. also ,Just Me
    you may like to see a report by the first board member who was kicked off,that i know of..

    http://www.ourasheville.org/071115-urtv/images-data/20071018-urtv-treasurer-report.pdf

    and more…

    http://www.ourasheville.org/071115-urtv/

    i understand that board member Dial was suspended within hours of asking to see the books,and subsequently removed from the board..
    why do board members keep asking to see the books??
    can’t they see that it will just get them kicked off the board??

  71. “It is pretty obvious that you cannot give someone’s 1099 or W-2 to anyone besides that person, or the IRS. And you certainly would not pass out documents with bank account and credit card account numbers.”

    I met with David Gantt, in March to discuss various concerns I had, as to non compliance with the management agreement URTV had with the County, and what the long term consequences were to that non compliance. He informed me in that meeting, that it was my fiduciary repsonsibility to pay close attention to expenditures.

    I subsequently made a formal request for public records, and noted in the letter that I was acting partly on the guidance of Commissioner Gantt. I originally asked back in late March of ’09 and again in early April of ’09. Within hours of the second request I was sent an email message from the Board Chairman (Pastor Jerry Young of Trinity Baptist Church) that I was “suspended.” He would never answer what I was “suspended from.”

    The requests was for w-2′s, info pertaining to “contract labor,” credit card expenditures and bank register. All confidential info like SS #s can be blacked out.

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