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.
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.”