In a special meeting May 28, URTV’s board of directors unanimously approved new bylaws that concentrate more power in the board’s hands while keeping the current membership structure intact.
Originally, the proposed bylaws would have done away with the public-access station’s current membership entirely, replacing “members” with various categories of “associates” to be created by the board. Unlike current members, the associates could not elect board members or vote on matters affecting the station. But after URTV canceled its last board meeting when board members couldn’t enter the locked Buncombe County Television offices, those clauses were removed.
“All of my concerns have been addressed,” new board member Matt Howard said before the vote.
The new bylaws give the board’s Executive Committee—consisting of the board’s officers—sweeping powers. In between board meetings, these four have all the powers of the whole board except for three things: dissolving URTV, amending the bylaws and appointing new board members. In addition, the board has been expanded from 11 to 13, with the two new members to be appointed by the current board of directors.
The new bylaws also create an appeals process for board members removed from their seats (by a two-thirds majority of the board), giving the board member 48 hours to appeal to the Executive Committee. Ironically, in the two most recent such cases, it was the Executive Committee that recommended dismissing board members Davyne Dial and Richard Bernier to begin with.
In another irony, the special meeting, which was announced on May 26, was itself in violation of the bylaws then in effect, which required seven days’ notice before such a meeting.
Bernier, who wasn’t present at the meeting though he hasn’t yet been formally removed from the board, objected to it on those grounds, saying the short notice did not allow sufficient time to consider the impact of the proposed changes.
“I’m concerned that this is being rushed upon us to consider without considerable time being spent to go over in detail what each change means,” Bernier wrote in an e-mail. “Since much of the new bylaws are written in a vague manner, it is difficult to understand what they mean and what the implications are. Personally I’d like to go over these changes line by line for clarification & even open this up for our membership to ask questions along with the general public.”
Reactions to the new bylaws differed. URTV producer Christopher Chiaromonte applauded the changes, simply saying, “Bravo!” while John Blackwell compared the vote to fascism. “It was unanimous—wasn’t that the way they did it in Germany?” he said.
Producer Robert Howland, who’s been critical of the attempts to remove Dial and Bernier, expressed mixed feelings about the changes.
“It seems like there has been some positive progress with the board,” he said. “The progress that I’m seeing unfold today is that member-elected board members can still vote. You’ve moved in that direction, and I appreciated that.
“But where I’m hazier is the conflict of interest, balance of power and oversight issues,” he continued. “I guess maybe there should be more county and city [-appointed] members. This is a really sticky area, but it’s critical that in case things go amok, for any reason, things can be reined in. I guess I’m saying I trust the city and county more than the internal board structure to rein things in.”
Dial, who’s been highly critical of the station’s management over the past few months, was also present to weigh in on her removal from the board—accomplished by a 33-12 vote of URTV members—which she maintains was improperly done.
“I put up a good fight,” said Dial. “You got your way, and now I’m off.” Dial read a letter from Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy expressing appreciation for her “efforts to uphold the bylaws.”
To read the new URTV bylaws, go to www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles.