Sweeping changes to URTV bylaws proposed; board cancels meeting

The meeting was supposed to determine whether local public-access channel URTV would adopt sweeping changes to its bylaws, scrap the current membership structure and place more power in the hands of its board of directors.

But assembled outside the offices of Buncombe County Television on May 21, those board members faced a more immediate problem: They couldn’t get the door open.

URTV Executive Director Pat Garlinghouse struggled with the door for some time, but lacking the proper code or a working key, the board was forced to reschedule the meeting.

“I forgot those skills of picking locks a long time ago,” joked board President Jerry Young. “So we’re going to have to reschedule, and we’ll just send an e-mail out when we can convene again.”

Young told Xpress that he hoped to announce the new meeting date “within the next couple of days.”

The May 21 meeting had promised to be contentious. The proposed bylaws would replace the channel’s members with categories of “associates” created by the board.

“Associates of URTV shall not have the right to vote in any matter(s) brought before the Board of Directors,” the proposed bylaws state. “Associates are considered URTV clients who should have a venue for input to the facility operation and activities.”

But the bylaws make no provision for membership meetings. They would also radically change the board’s makeup. Instead of 11 board members, there would be 15. Seven would be appointed by the sitting directors, and two each by Asheville and Buncombe County. The remaining four would be “associate members representative of the group of URTV clients or users of the services.”

Current URTV members would appear to have no say in choosing the new board, and the four associate members “shall serve indefinite terms at the pleasure of the Board. … There are no provisions for the election of Associate Members,” according to the new bylaws.

The new rules would also vest far more power in the board’s Executive Committee, which consists of the station’s officers. Although the committee could not approve new board members, change the bylaws or dissolve URTV, it otherwise “shall have and may exercise all of the authority of the Board of Directors between Board meetings.”

The May 21 meeting also seemed likely to include conflict over board member Richard Bernier‘s attempt to take his seat. Bernier and fellow board member Davyne Dial have been sharply critical of the station’s management and a perceived lack of transparency in its operations.

In February, the Executive Committee recommended dismissing both of them, yet they attended the March board meeting and voted normally. Since then, Young has declared both of them suspended. The current bylaws, however, don’t give the board president that power, and Bernier has maintained that he can still take his seat.

The station has weathered multiple controversies in recent months, including questions about whether it was following state open-meetings law, a memo from Young directing board members not to speak to the press, and a disputed vote to remove Dial.

A two-thirds majority of the current board would have to approve the new bylaws, which must be posted at URTV’s place of business seven days before the vote.

To view the proposed bylaws, go to www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles.

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