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Embattled KBOO manager quits, new board slate wins

Embattled KBOO station manager Lynn Fitch has resigned her position, amid signs she was losing support from the station’s board of directors.

Fitch, who had been on medical leave since late July, informed the board on Sept. 9 that she was resigning, shortly before she was to return to work, said Board Chairman S.W. “Conch” Conser.

On Sunday, Sept.15, members of the KBOO Foundation elected four new board members, all of them recommended by a group called Committee to Keep KBOO as KBOO, which had opposed some of the policies pushed by Fitch and her then-supporters on the board.

In the weeks leading up to the board election, Fitch's support on the board evaporated, as three members who had supported her policy initiatives resigned, and a fourth was removed from the board by his peers.

The newly elected board members are Michael Wells, a former KBOO station manager and board member; Joe Uris, a longtime KBOO talk show host; Jennifer Davis and Adin Rogovin. About 700 foundation members, who include the non-profit station’s financial contributors and volunteers, cast ballots in the annual board of directors election concluding Sunday, Conser said. The four winners topped all the other candidates by a substantial margin of 180 to 190 votes, he said.

Some of the losing candidates had indicated support for the direction the station was taking under Fitch’s leadership.

The board promoted Fitch from development director to station manager a year ago, at a time when the station faced increasing financial pressures and stagnant listenership.

The station has about 4,850 paid members, down about 6 percent compared to the prior year, Conser reported at the foundation’s annual meeting on Sunday. The station fell about $100,000 short of its fundraising goals for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, he said.

The board had given Fitch a mandate to change personnel and other policies, but those provoked a backlash at the alternative station, long a voice for music, news and public affairs programming not found elsewhere on the Portland radio dial.

Fitch angered KBOO’s paid staff members by cutting their benefits and other moves to assert more managerial authority at the 45-year-old station, which has a tradition of participatory governance. At one point, Fitch threatened to fire all the staff and make them re-apply for their jobs.

The staff voted 8-0 to unionize on May 30, and they are now represented by the Communications Workers of America, Local 7901. After initially opposing the union and hiring a labor firm whose specialties include thwarting union drives, Fitch backed down and agreed to work with the union. Talks reportedly are going smoothly on a collective bargaining agreement.

The KBOO board will meet on Monday and may decide to pick an interim station manager, Conser said. He plans to step down as board chair but remain on the board.

The station, which relies on membership donations, underwriting, grants and fundraising events, no longer gets federal subsidies from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The stations holds its annual used book and record sale on Saturday, Sept. 28, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Musician's Union Hall at 325 N.E. 20th. KBOO DJs will spin records during the sale.