In a closed session on Monday, Feb. 9, URTV’s executive committee voted to remove board of directors members Richard Bernier and Davyne Dial, who have criticized what they see as a lack of transparency at the public-access channel.
Bernier told Xpress that he found about the removal when he received a letter informing him of the vote and that in 10 days (on Feb. 19), “a special meeting will be held. In executive session, you will be given an opportunity to present your case. After speaking, you will leave the room and the board will vote.”
The letter is signed by Board President Jerry Young and Secretary Ralph Roberts and does not disclose the reasons for Bernier’s dismissal.
Both Bernier and Dial said they hadn’t been notified of the special meeting beforehand. The move comes on the heels of several controversies at the channel, including those over a confidentiality clause in an oath administered to board members (which was later changed), denial of a request to film a meeting and a memo from Young that muzzled board members’ ability to the press about station business.
“We have done nothing more than follow up on a request to film the meeting; since then there’s been all this negativity towards us,” Bernier told Xpress. “All we’ve done so far is try to address some basic transparency issues, because we want URTV to survive. These basic issues should have been resolved years ago.”
Dial, meanwhile, said she was notified of the vote by another board member and hadn’t yet received a letter.
“We need to be beyond these issues to deal with matters of sustainability and outreach — and we’re not,” Dial said. “What this action looks like to me is that it reveals an attitude of disrespect for the laws and rules that have been put into place. It’s like, ‘You have to follow the rules if you’re a member or mere producer, but we don’t have to follow the rules, we’re the people in charge [and] we can make up our own rules up as we go.’ Which is exactly what they’ve done. The rules aren’t for them, they’re for the little people. They think they don’t have to pay attention to what the management agreements with the city and county say.”
Bernier asserts, “I’ve only asked questions and amplified the community’s interest at board meetings, brought some issues to light. What have I done wrong? They’ve yet to advise me of that. I’d like to know what I’ve done wrong.”
URTV bylaws allow board members to be removed by a vote of two-thirds of all board members currently in office.
Under the state’s open-meetings law, which URTV is required to follow by its agreements with both the city of Asheville and Buncombe County, only matters of personnel (paid staff), property acquisition or consultation with legal counsel may be dealt with in closed session. In all those cases, the board must still begin its meeting in open session before voting to hold a closed session and citing the legal justification for such a move. On Feb. 9, at the beginning of the meeting time for the executive session, the doors to URTV’s offices — the announced meeting place — were locked.
Dial has sat on URTV’s board since last July, Bernier since September.
— David Forbes, staff writer