On an 8-0 vote with one abstention, the URTV board of directors removed Richard Bernier from his post June 15, asserting that he hadn't dealt with conflicts correctly and had damaged URTV's reputation with his outspoken criticism of the station's management. Maintaining that he'd tried to bring up important issues of transparency that many of the other directors had ignored, Bernier actually urged his colleagues to remove him if they disapproved of his behavior.
Over the past few months, Bernier has criticized a confidentiality clause in an oath for board members (later rescinded), attempts by Executive Director Pat Garlinghouse to discourage filming of board meetings (allowed within certain guidelines under the state's open-meetings law), and the overall direction of the public-access station, which he feels hasn't been aggressive enough in recruiting and retaining members.
A statement circulated among board members asserted that Bernier's actions “have damaged URTV in the eyes of the community it represents,” citing four reasons for his removal:
“Richard has not brought issues to [the] board for consideration, or to be defended, before going to the community/media/Council/Commissioners with complaints and/or demands for action — rather, he has continually argued his positions in the press. Any and all legitimate issues that were raised were dealt with quickly and correctly as per URTV bylaws;
“Richard presents a state of antagonism between himself and the URTV board. By so doing, Richard is not acting in the best interests of the organizaton;
“Richard doesn't consider cause and effect;
“Richard's actions are contrary to an acceptable standard of conduct for URTV.”
Before the vote, Bernier defended his actions as those of a longtime station producer and advocate who was trying to address pressing issues.
“I support URTV 100 percent, and the current staff has met their obligation to meet the public's needs on a daily basis — that's not in question,” said Bernier. “But the direction of the URTV board is troubling.”
Sticking to his guns, Bernier declared: “If you're not a supporter of transparency and open-meeting laws, vote me off. If you see no fault in URTV's staff not wanting our meetings filmed, then vote me off. That was totally against open-meetings law, and we [Bernier and former board member Davyne Dial, who was removed April 29] tried to bring it up.”
Bernier maintained that he was left with little choice but to make the matter public. After “a member of the public asks to film and is shot down, where do you go?” he asked. “I sent e-mails out, I asked for help about being on the board and procedure and said there were issues. The rest of the board said there were no issues.
“I didn't want there to be this kind of animosity, but I will stand up for what's right.”
Bernier also voiced the fear that these conflicts signaled the end of “the melting pot” of diverse views that had attracted him to URTV in the first place.
“I don't know if we'll get that back,” he said. “The division is there now. After I'm gone, you'll have full rein. But you're still board members, you still have responsibilities, and I suggest you look at them very strongly.”
Bernier completed his statement by making the motion for his own removal and voting in favor of it.
New member Matt Howard abstained, saying that because he wasn't on the board during the period in question, he didn't feel he could vote either way.
After the meeting, board member Hunter Goosmann told
that URTV's own attorney had “very different views” concerning the actions Bernier said violated open-meetings law. Goosmann also maintained that for him, the vote wasn't personal.
“I hope he'll remain and be an active producer; he's an excellent producer,” said Goosmann, adding, “My biggest concerns right now aren't for Mr. Bernier: They're for URTV.”