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KABF moves forward, slowly

Recent changes too little, too late?

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Back in August, the Times reported on troubles, financial and otherwise, at local public radio station KABF. An audit by the inspector general's office of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting found "material noncompliance with CPB requirements" including $49,957 in questionable expenses, lack of documentation supporting contributions, lack of discrete accounting, failure to hold open meetings, failure to have open financial records and lack of a community advisory board.

The report also outlined ways that KABF could take corrective actions and maintain CPB funding (which, at over $50,000 per year, is the financially-strapped station's biggest source of income). So, what's happened since August? Very little. Why? That's a good question.

Board member Jay Jansen's efforts to call attention to the problems in subsequent board meetings and find ways to fix them were met with disdain and even hostility. Long-time board members who have served since the station's early days as an affiliate of the now-defunct ACORN, said time was better spent focusing on the positive aspects — if there were any to be found — of the station's history and agenda items aimed at solving the problems outlined by the CPB were deferred to later meetings. As a result, KABF will lose its CPB funding and have to find other sources of revenue, not a small task for a station that was barely getting by as it was.

In order to keep the CPB money flowing, the inspector general's report required the station to, among other things, form a community advisory board to help oversee the station's accounting. Jansen says a representative from the inspector general's office also suggested expanding board membership. Action was not taken on either of these items until earlier this month when two new board members were approved. At a meeting held Nov. 17, another board members was confirmed and a community advisory board was put in place, thanks to two volunteers.

"I think we've got about four or five other [potential] board members waiting for approval," Jansen says. "They've been up for approval and [the board] refuse to induct them. A committee reviews the applicants and makes recommendations to the full board and that committee would only recommend two out of seven or so. Most of those people had immense qualifications, so I didn't see any logical reason for not allowing these people on the board. I just think the original board doesn't want to be outnumbered."

Board President Lucho Reyes called an emergency meeting on Aug. 10 to address some of the outstanding issues. Five board members — Evelyn Parker, Donna Massey, Johnnie Pugh, Columbus Higgins and Maxine Nelson — refused to attend. Jansen immediately called for their resignation. They did not tender it.

Parker, who serves as secretary for the board, said in a telephone interview that she would not answer questions about why she and other board members did not attend the meeting.

"I'm not sure what their motivations are, but if we are able to diversify the board, all of that will hopefully become irrelevant and we'll be moving on," Jansen says.

Enrique Castro, who has had a show on KABF for four years, is one of the new board members. He turned in an application for the board in May, but wasn't confirmed until last week. He says divisions between old board members and new, along with the initial resistance to admitting the station had problems, are hopefully starting to fade.

"It's really no mystery to anyone that the board has lacked true leadership from within its ranks," Castro says. "I think it's a group of well-meaning people ... I believe that finally the seriousness of the situation has really grabbed the board. Some might say it's a little too late and perhaps it might be, but we really can't dwell on what the problems were. Now we just have to work together in fixing it."

The station will continue to operate, at least for the short-term. Right now, Jansen and Castro say the best thing that can happen for KABF is for the community to get involved.

"Our plan is to recruit interested parties who have a desire to help, and those who actually can help, and to begin to work with them. Any in-fighting is not going to bring about anything positive," Castro says.

The station is at 88.3 FM.

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