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Chaos reigns as Parrsboro Radio Society elects board of directors

Members learn more about community station’s huge debt

by Bruce Wark

April 7, 2013

Sit down and be quiet! Sit down and shut up!

Those words rang out several times last night at the Annual General Meeting of the Parrsboro Radio Society, a small non-profit group that operates the town’s 50-watt community radio station. Chair, Don Jewers and Treasurer, Dora Fuller shouted the words as they responded to members who were outraged at how they were conducting the meeting in Parrsboro’s Anglican church hall.

I was among those fighting for fair and democratic procedures after Jewers ruled that no new members would be allowed to join until the meeting had ended — an unprecedented manoeuvre that would prevent at least four new members from standing for election to the board of directors. (PRS bylaws state that once they have joined the Society, members are entitled to hold any office.) The tactic also meant that Jewers, along with other sitting board members, would stand a better chance of winning re-election themselves in spite of their reckless spending on a futile court battle.

Just how reckless that spending was became evident at last night’s meeting when members learned that Parrsboro’s community radio station lost thousands of dollars last year. The directors also racked up a debt of about $13,000 as they waged a legal war against a group that has been pressing for changes in the way the radio station is run. Among other things, the dissident group (of which I am now a member) wants the radio studios moved out of station manager Ross Robinson’s house. We’re also demanding that Robinson be made more accountable to the elected board of directors.

Robinson

CiCR manager Ross Robinson

Jewers wavers on voting procedures

As angry members (including me) pressed Jewers to recess the meeting for 10 minutes to allow new members to join so they could run for office, he appeared to relent, but after conferring with Robinson, continued to insist that no one could join until after the voting. (PRS bylaws allow any member to stand for election to the board, but new members cannot vote unless they have attended at least one previous meeting.)

Finally, as the hubbub continued, Jewers halted the proceedings to allow new members to join. Later, however, at the urging of station manager Robinson, he went along with his wife’s announcement that no new members would be allowed to stand for the board of directors because their names had not yet been entered in the Register of Members. (Sylvia Jewers, who was acting as Secretary at the meeting, waved a copy of the Register, but did not explain why she could not enter the four names before voting began.) In the end, Jewers and Robinson got their way and no new members were allowed to run for the board even though the bylaws clearly permit it. Yes, it was another fine day for Parrsboro-style democracy.

All in all, 17 people stood for election for 10 board seats, and 32 people cast ballots. After counting the ballots, the tellers announced that five of the 10 board seats had gone to previous board members: Don and Sylvia Jewers, Dora Fuller, Alexander Lich and Lewis Brown. Three new candidates nominated by the board won seats: Shirley Brown, Lyle Yorke and Bill Connors. Two members who called for change, including moving the radio station, were also elected. They are:  Andrew Wagstaff and Randy Mosher.

One of those who helped count the votes was Roger White, station manager at the commercial radio station CKDH in Amherst. During the meeting, White warned all members to end their feuding because, otherwise, the CRTC would not renew the Parrsboro licence when it comes up for review in 2015. “Once the licence is gone,” White added, “you will not get it back.”

For background on the court battle and its costs click here and here.

7 Responses to CICR

  1. Sandy Graham says:

    The Annual General Meeting began badly, and went downhill from there. Newcomers such as me were not allowed to take out memberships before the meeting began. This new rule would help the present board protect and consolidate their power, even though there is nothing in the bylaws of Parrsboro Radio Society to justify it.

    It is customary at such meetings to clarify rules of procedure by stating that it will be run according to Robert’s Rules of Order, or some other accepted standard. Early on, Bruce Wark attempted, in a conciliatory and moderate tone, to raise this issue on a point of order. This a very normal and reasonable action. But those running the meeting appeared confused and threatened by the question, which was simply to confirm by what standard of rules the meeting would be conducted. The clear impression I and others had was that none of the executive had heard of Robert’s Rules of Order, a surprising revelation, in my view. The chair not only ignored Bruce’s point, and my subsequent effort to explain this as accepted and universal practice; the meeting would go on, as it turns out, to follow no rules of order, exhibit a shameful lack of decorum, and betray the society’s own bylaws.

    People speaking out of turn, interrupting a speaker, yelling personal accusations, and add to this, the poor accounting of what has been happening in the past year, a year in which the society needlessly lost $36,000, and you have one sham of a meeting. There were good citizens there, and this display was not lost upon them. It was ugly, petty, amateurish, and shameful. I’ve been involved on the boards and committees of many non-profits and museums over the years. This was the worst meeting I have ever attended, and others agreed.

    I struggle to process not only the disgraceful lack of respect for rules, procedure, and people shown at this meeting, but also to find adequate words to express my outrage and disappointment. But Richard Wheaton helped me out. He and a few other fellows were taking all this in, standing at the back where we would occasionally and briefly compare thoughts. Towards the end of the meeting, Richard and I looked at each other, mutually aware of our frustration and distaste for this performance. “What a shit show,” he pronounced. And I thought, yes, that’s about right.

  2. Gordon Heffler says:

    Well what to say now??? Golly I’m really not sure but here goes…

    FIRST I did tell all back a ways that CRTC/Industry Canada are my areas of expertise and YES the Parrsboro Radio Station Licence will NOT be renewed in three years by CRTC if the bickering and strife continues….so solve it OR bend over and kiss your radio station goodbye forever. Because of the existence of Amherst Community Radio at 6500 watts in Fenwick, the CRTC will never license a community radio station for Parrsboro..EVER again… so save it or it gone!

    How to save it? Well… no longer feel confident enough to say BUT the only save is to restore some kind of working harmony and only all of you folks involved all the way around inside and out have the ways and means to attempt that. If you do not then much like the Mayan Calendar, the Parrsboro Radio Station Calendar will end at the end of the current CRTC license (three years away) so you are at the crossroads on this…think it through carefully…!

    As for me I will be around to assist technically if things breakdown between now and the end of track but only if the station is paying my contractor rate which is highly unlikely given the state of finances..

    Out of ideas, out of time, out of luck, out of money…… and out of this discusssion as at this point “Quite frankly Scarlette I dont give a damn.”

    Gordon Heffler – Parrsboro Community Radio pioneer (with 5 others)

    • Bruce Wark says:

      Gordon:

      Why should you get your “contractor rate” when the rest of us are expected to work for free? If you really cared about your late wife Juanita’s station, you’d offer to help move it to a neutral location without charging anything.

      After all, you were one of those gung-ho on going to court even though I warned at the Nov. 4, 2012 board meeting that legal fees could well bankrupt the station and that our lawyer had advised it would be better to negotiate a settlement out of court.

      When Lewis Brown and I moved and seconded a motion to hold a public meeting to explain the legal spending to PRS members, you were outraged. And when I said I would tell the members at such a meeting that the PRS’s legal spending would likely bankrupt the station, you shouted at me over the speaker phone from Halifax: “You will sit there (at such a members’ meeting) and keep your trap shut. The Chair speaks for the board.” In the end of course, board members voted the motion down and PRS members never got to hear about the ill-fated and reckless decision to press ahead with a losing court case that has put the radio station next door to bankruptcy.

      At station manager Ross Robinson’s urging, Chair Don Jewers let you spew your venom at me during that November meeting even though you were not a member of the board and had no standing other than your claim to be one of the original founders.

      Juanita must be rolling over in her grave! You have done much to dishonour her memory and her achievements.

      “Contractor rate” indeed. If there were any justice, you’d be helping the station climb out of its deep financial hole, instead of trying to portray yourself as an innocent neutral who was one of the original founders.

      You have much to answer for, my friend.

      • Gordon Heffler says:

        I was going to drop off all this as I gave it already my best shot and failed to gain the co-operation and insight of either side in all this mess…but since Mr Wark wants to attack personalities and sacred memories…I will CLOSE this door with the following FINAL comments………..

        Let me just say this…When we(Juanita and I) and the other pioneers of that station started its formation…we all volunteered and after it got “going” full-time, as any community station will tell you, the station manager position is a stipend position (Ross or whomever…) AND the technical support in ALL community stations is a paid position…now just to be clear on that for you…I run my own bussiness servicing over half a dozen community and Christian stations in both Nova Scotia and British Columbia…so please do not ever think that for one second I would not treat whomever is running the Parrsboro station as just another equal footing client of mine (if they so choose)…also I provide 7x24x365 support coverage to all my clients for free!!!

        So that is the platform on which I stand and am not ashamed of any of it. I also know, as you must realize…that lots of problems and errors in judgement have taken place over the past BUT if that is where we must stay stuck then stuck you all are… as for me as I said in my post…I am available at $60/hr plus travel if requested…unlikely as there appears to be no contigency for a technical failure with this thing and no funds so as I said…I really do not care anymore but will be here if needed… if not needed that’s ok too…

        So you have a good day in running off telling everyone that “I” told you so, but for me, I have my good day by moving on with life……..bad atitudes and people are always noisier than good folks .. and good folks dont rub “it” in your face until you gag……. That’s the view from here and as I said, I’m done trying to beat this horse that won’t drink because I now realize it’s a dead horse….///Gordon Heffler

  3. Donna Babineau says:

    Sandy & Bruce:
    Well said and well done!!!

    I telephoned Joint Stocks this am and was told that there are NO rules against Frank or I in joining and voting at the meeting on Saturday night. There is nothing in the by-laws that states that. The lady that I spoke to said, “There is nowhere that it states that a person who worked for the board for 6-7 years does not have the right to vote.”

    Therefore, I call Saturday night’s meeting INVALID AND SUCH A SHAM THAT THEY SHOULD BE SO ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES THAT THEY HIDE THEIR HEADS IN A HOLE AND STAY THERE!!!!!

  4. Alex Wentzell says:

    Editor’s note: Before you read Alex Wentzell’s comment, here is information that puts his remarks in context. Station mgr. Ross Robinson was convicted of sexual assault in 2012. The judge described the assault as “minor” and imposed a conditional discharge which meant that after serving his one year of probation, Robinson would not have a criminal record because of the conviction. However, his name will be on a sex offenders’ registry for 10 years, a standard requirement for anyone convicted of a sex crime. The case involved a woman who went to the radio station to report a lost purse. Evidence in court showed that later that day, after drinking several beers, Robinson appeared at her home where he made sexually suggestive comments and touched her back. While the judge described the assault as on the low end of the scale, evidence showed that the victim was upset and felt threatened by Robinson’s conduct.

    How is it possible that a registered sex offender is allowed to be involved with a community radio station? Especially the same community in which the victim resides. How can any women feel safe getting involved with the radio knowing who is running the show? Who would want to go to the station considering it is located in his home?

    This is APPALLING!

    All this talk of trying to save the station will not work as long as he is involved and running it out of his own home. Removing him and moving to a neutral location should be the top priorities. Once these 2 things happen the healing process can begin.

    Not only is he getting paid a wage for being an employee, he is also getting paid rent and other “fees” for having it in his house. So he is essentially his own landlord. The station manager should not also be the landlord. That’s a huge conflict of interest. He has a financial stake in it being in his home and he will do anything in his power to keep this arrangement going, even if it means burying the radio station and losing the station’s licence when it’s not renewed.

    His house, his rules! He wants all the power and control.

    I don’t understand how this is allowed to happen. Are there no town officials (mayor, etc.) looking on and seeing what’s happening. Are they powerless to step in? His actions are giving the town a major black eye, and that doesn’t look good on anyone.

    If this were to happen in the town I live in now he would be run out of town with a mob of people with pitchforks and barrels full of tar and feathers trailing close behind.

  5. Is the Radio Station still in operation? As a concerned individual, with long term and deep ties to Parrsboro and areas, via friends & family, I have several questions, legitimate concerns, and would like to discuss them with someone that is capable of said discussions in a fair and reasonable manner. Thank You.

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