Some things are more difficult to write about than others. Writing anything critical about an organization that you care deeply about can be one of the most difficult.
Recent conflicts within Community Access Television came exploding to the surface this week at two meetings of the C.A.T. board, neither of which showed the board at its finest.
The first was a meeting of the Personnel Committee - a public meeting, though you wouldn’t be able to tell from the reaction from certain members of the board.
There were objections to the meeting going out on the Government Channel. There was resistance to allowing members of the public (C.A.T. producers) the opportunity to speak.
During at least one moment, the C.A.T. board president gave the instruction that the cameras be turned off; the instruction was not complied with.
Thursday evening the matter was compounded when - not having a quorum - the board went into Executive Session and conducted an evaluation of the C.A.T. Manager.
They did this, even though it was made clear to them that they did not have a quorum. It was, in short, an illegal meeting.
This is what happens when a board basically becomes incestuous, and looks to their friends and neighbors as potential board members, instead of aggressively seeking individuals in the wider community with board experience.
Essentially, you have board members - though they may have the best of intentions - running around like the guys from F Troop.
It was especially sad to see that the board members - at least those brave enough to speak on camera this week - seemed unaware of their own policies and procedures.
C.A.T. producer C.F. Roberts has edited some highlights - with some editorial comment - of Tuesday’s Personnel Committee meeting, which will run on C.A.T. on Saturday at 3pm.
For several years there has existed a C.A.T. Advisory Board, made up of former C.A.T. boards members and others with long-time experience with public access. That the current board is either completely unaware of its existence or has chosen - whatever reasons - never to consult it - may speak volumes.
The C.A.T. board can easily fix whatever problems they have, but only by taking a long, honest look at themselves and their recent behavior.
My letter to the C.A.T. Board
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, I wrote a letter to the C.A.T. Board, expressing my concerns. Maybe they read it, maybe they didn’t.
Recently I have become aware of disturbing actions on the part of some members of the board of Community Access Television - a board it has been my great honor to serve on in the past.
The fact that at least one board officer is taking these actions is doubly disturbing. I am referring to direct interference with C.A.T. staff, which is something so dangerous as to put this organization into serious legal jeopardy.
I am sure that during the course of this meeting others will warn you of the legal dangers you face in this matter. I would like to take a little time to address the health of this organization. I have served on the boards of several organizations (Fayetteville Open Channel, Community Access Television, Alliance for Community Media - Southwest Board, American Civil Liberties Union - Northwest Arkansas Chapter, AIDS Resource Center of Northwest Arkansas) and have seen firsthand the results of what this sort of reckless behavior can have on an organization.
I realize that it is hardly my place to remind you of your basic board training, but I feel it necessary to remind you of one important fact: The only employee that the board interfaces with is the C.A.T. Manager.
The Manager directs the staff.
Board members should never feel free to engage in spying, or “fact-finding missions” about staffers, or skulk about talking to anyone about staff activities. This would include meeting with members of other organizations for their views.
I have tried to break this down as simply as possible, because it seems as though some board members feel as though the rules of this organization no longer apply to them.
I have seen this before, not only here, but in other organizations, as well. This destroys morale - not only among staff, but among members of the public who can sense the discord in the organization.
It also hurts the morale of board members who are trying to do their jobs, and not be swept into the whirlpool of emotions created by those on a vendetta.
People begin to take sides, and factions are created.
One question become paramount, above all others:
Who are you loyal to? Inevitably, one must choose a side. Those who don’t takes sides eventually abandon the organization.
I have seen this happen before. You don't want this to happen here and now - or ever.
I will stop short of suggesting that the board members in question should resign from the board, but if any are officers, for the good of C.A.T., they must step aside and let others take their place. They have created way too damage in far too short a period of time.