On Monday, the URTV Board of Directors voted, with one abstention, to remove Richard Bernier from his post, in a resolution asserting that in his outspoken criticism of the station’s management had not dealt with conflicts correctly and damaged URTV’s reputation. Bernier replied that he had tried to bring up important issues of transparency that many of the other directors had ignored.
Over the past few months, Bernier has criticized a confidentiality clause in an oath for board members (later rescinded), attempts by Executive Director Pat Garlinghouse to discourage filming of board meetings and the overall management direction of URTV, which, he has claimed, hasn’t tried to recruit and retain members aggressively enough.
A “statement for board removal” that asserted Bernier’s actions “have damaged URTV in the eyes of the community it represents” and circulated among directors gave four reasons for his removal:
• “Richard has not brought issues to 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 made a statement defending his actions as those of a long-time producer and advocate of URTV 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,” Bernier said. “But the direction of the URTV board is troubling.”
He proceeded to tell the other members to vote for his removal if they had issues with his action.
“As board members we have a responsibility to exercise oversight. There were issues brought up in the board that I’ve tried to address,” Bernier said. “After being on this board, I see nothing right. 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 has also been removed] tried to bring it up.”
Bernier said that he was left with little choice but to take the matter public. After “a member of the public asks to film and is shot down, where do you go?” he said. “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.
“Many times I tried to get something on the agenda, it would fail to be there,” he added. “It’s been a constant battle. I didn’t want there to be this kind of animosity, but I will stand up for what’s right.”
Bernier said that he feared that the conflicts meant the end of “the melting pot” of different views and lifestyles that had drawn him to URTV in the first place.
“We saw that early on, and somewhere we’ve lost that,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll get that back. 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 finished his statement by making the motion for his own removal and voting in favor of it.
New member Matt Howard said that as he had not been on the board during the period of Bernier’s actions, he felt he could not vote one way or the other.
Board member Hunter Goosmann told Xpress after the meeting that URTV’s own attorney had “very different views” on the actions Bernier asserted violated open-meetings law and that the vote, for him, was not personal.
“I hope he’ll remain and be an active producer, he’s an excellent producer,” Goosmann said. “My biggest concerns right now aren’t for Mr. Bernier, they’re for URTV and finding opportunities for it to grow in its services to Buncombe County.”
— David Forbes, staff writer