URTV has called an executive session of its executive committee for Monday, Feb. 9. The topic has not been disclosed. Also, URTV Board President Jerry Young has sent out a note on “information protocol” for board members of the station speaking to the press.
Both moves come amidst ongoing controversy over transparency at the public-access channel, which receives money through the city of Asheville and Buncombe County through fees charged to cable subscribers. Some members of URTV’s board have taken issue with several measures, including a confidentiality clause in an oath (which URTV later changed) and video of the executive director making remarks that a North Carolina Press Association attorney characterized as misrepresenting the state’s open-meetings law.
The executive session of the executive committee was called by Young, originally for today, but was rescheduled for Monday at 8 a.m. in URTV’s offices at 31 College Place, since “we do not have a quorum for Friday,” according to an e-mail from Young obtained by Xpress.
Under the September 2007 version of URTV’s bylaws, the executive committee is composed of the “officers of the corporation,” which are listed as being a president, vice-president, treasurer, and clerk. URTV’s Web site, however, lists the current officers as Young, Treasurer Joe Scotto, Secretary Ralph Roberts, and Parliamentarian Bob Horn — a position that is not mentioned in the original bylaws. Executive Director Pat Garlinghouse sits on the committee as a nonvoting member.
Also according to the bylaws, “the Board may at times, by majority vote, give the Executive Committee the power to make specific decisions when no regular Board meeting is scheduled.”
An executive session, meanwhile, is generally a closed meeting of a nonprofit and requires that a quorum of the entire board (six members in this case) be present — and a majority approve going into session. Under the state’s open-meeting laws, which URTV is required to follow, the board would have to open the session, then vote to go into a closed session, which is usually used to discuss property or personnel matters.
The special meeting was a surprise to board member Richard Bernier, who, along with board member Davyne Dial, has criticized what he sees as a lack of transparency.
“This is news to me,” he told Xpress.
Young also sent out a note to board members as “a reminder about information protocol,” in which he wrote, “It is my understanding that no board member is authorized to speak to the press on behalf of URTV. Either to print publications or on web-based sites.”
He added, “I understand that as Board President I am the only spokesperson for URTV. It is also my understanding that no single board member may ever speak on behalf of URTV. I understand that I can designate the Executive Director as the Press Contact but I am the only person who can authorize information on behalf of URTV.”
Finally, Young instructs board members, “Any request for information, or response to questions, should be directed to me.”
NCPA Attorney Mike Tadych notes that members of any board required to abide by open-meetings law can limit First Amendment rights to free speech only “if they give them up in advance — through a clause or bylaw that they agree to — that limits that right. Otherwise, they can voice their own opinion.” He added that such a board can designate a spokesperson.
Young has not returned phone and e-mail requests for clarification on the meeting and the information-protocol message.
The full note from Young is below.
— David Forbes, staff writer
Dear Fellow Board Members,
This note is a reminder about information protocol with regard to URTV. It is my understanding that no board member is authorized to speak to the press on behalf of URTV. Either to print publications or on web-based sites.
I understand that as Board President I am the only spokesperson for URTV. It is also my understanding that no single board member may ever speak on behalf of URTV. I understand that I can designate the Executive Director as the Press Contact but I am the only person who can authorize information on behalf of URTV.
All official information that has been directed to the press thus far on behalf of URTV is correct and approved and has been directed by me.
Any request for information, or response to questions, should be directed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I trust that all members will abide by this directive.
I would also like to mention that I do have other responsibilities outside my responsibilities to URTV. Therefore, I may not be able to respond to your emails as quickly as I would like, I do assure you that I will respond in due course.
I would also request that we take time to consider the matter that is very important to each one of us:
We have a great opportunity to make a positive impact in our community via URTV.
We need to work together on the issues that seem to constantly cause unnecessary division.
I have enjoyed working with URTV and all the staff and board members and I plan to continue as long as I can be useful.
I serve in this capacity because I was appointed by Buncombe County to represent them. I have remained a part URTV because I enjoy the work I do and I want to see the county and citizens benefit from all that URTV has to offer.
Finally there will always be those who are finding fault or some issue to criticize. As a board we need to accentuate the positive side of all the good that is being done for our community, because URTV exist. The programming, producers and people that continue to be a positive part of URTV provide us this great opportunity to make a difference in our diverse society.
I do not mean to sermonize, but that is what I do most days of my life.
Jerry Young, President, URTV Board of Directors.