VPT Staff Asks Top Board Members to Resign Amid Accusations

By Steph Machado

Published 01/27 2014 05:37PM

Updated 01/27 2014 06:13PM

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. - For more than 35 years, Sandy Dooley has been a member of Vermont Public Television.

"We contribute about 100 to 200 dollars a year," she said.

Dooley was one of dozens who came to Monday's meeting of the VPT Board of Directors at the Doubletree Hotel in South Burlington. Many were hoping to voice their opinions about allegations that the board violated open meeting laws.

"Much distressed to hear two things," said one VPT member. "'Anonymous', and 'Secret Meetings.'"

The board admits it held at least 20 closed meetings, saying they were about personnel matters. Closed meetings are allowed for personnel and legal matters (in fact, the board dismissed members of the public and the media for one portion of the meeting to discuss legal matters), but they have to announce the meeting in advance and record it in order to later make a report.

"In some instances, this procedural aspect of the open meeting requirements may not have been satisfied," said Tom Pelletier, Chair of the Audit Committee. The Audit Committee, mostly made up of board members, conducted an internal investigation into the allegations. The anonymous complaint was pointed toward Chair Pam Mackenzie and Vice Chair Rob Hofmann. Mackenzie is also the chair of the South Burlington City Council.

Staff members submitted a letter to the board calling for the resignation of Mackenzie and Hofmann, hoping it would lessen potential sanctions from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting. The CPB already de-certified VPT, and is conducting an investigation that could result in hefty fines.

The letter read, in part: "While these allegations alone have put a strain on the trust we have built with our viewers and members, a financial blow of this magnitude could result in a reduction of station signal coverage, cutbacks in quality programming, and the loss of valuable staff members."

"We look to the board to be supportive of the efforts of the station and its best interests," said Chuck Bongiorno, an employee of two years. "There was a sense of betrayal."

"What we're trying to do here is advance the cause of Vermont Public Television, not advance the cause of individual board members," said Brennan Neill, a VPT employee of 11 years.

Depending on what the CPB finds, Vermont Public Television might lose members like Sandy Dooley.

"Right now we're on automatic contributions," she said. "I'd have to call them and tell them to stop that."

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