Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bernier and Dial request tape of secret executive meeting

In violation of their own bylaws, a chosen few (Executive Committee) decide to get rid of Board Members who are requesting URTV comply with open meeting law, comply with terms of the City/County management agreement and comply with open records law. They feel not doing so jeapordizes of public access in Buncombe County.

The only way Board Members may be removed is by a 2/3rd majority of the whole Board of Directors, Knowing this fact, instead the President (Jerry Young) treasurer (Joe Scotto) Vice President (Bob Horn) and Secretary (Ralph Roberts) supposedly (since no minutes or recording was ever forthcoming this "meeting" is in question), met in secret and decided to illegally remove two Board members. Following is email dialog on this situation

From Davyne Dial

To Pat Garlinghouse , richard bernier

Date Wed, Apr 8, 2009 at 7:54 PM

Subject: Secret meeting tape / NC Open Record laws & David Gantt
To: Pat Garlinghouse Executive Director URTV

Mrs. Garlinghouse,

Mr. Richard Bernier and myself are asking that the "tape" made in secret meeting regarding our dismissal, be made available for listening on Friday afternoon. In the event you are unable to be at URTV on Friday, April 10, 2009, please make this available for listening to by staff of URTV.
In a recent meeting with Commissioner David Gantt, we were assured that URTV does come under NC open record laws(statute posted below). And that our responsibility as Board Members is to oversee financial issues. Therefore Mr. Bernier and I would also like copies of last years, and the three months of 2009 of the check register, copies of credit card expenditures and also we understand we are have a right to the list of all URTV members and their contact information. So we are requesting that list also.
Please confirm receipt of this email.


Davyne Dial

Richard Bernier
Board of Directors URTV
The response to this letter was to deny access of this information to Mr. Bernier and myself. Shorty after, Mr. Bernier and I were left completely “out of the loop” and forced off the Board of Directors.
On April 10, 2009 (19 days before the “vote” on my dismissal), I received these emails from Young & Garlinghouse (emphasis, mine):


On Fri, Apr 10, 2009 at 3:06 PM, Jerry Young wrote:
Dear Richard and Dayvene,

I am writing you as Board President of URTV, the purpose of my letter to both of you is to inform you that your membership is suspended.

Richard, you have refused to pay your membership! I have previously informed you of this matter which is expected of all our membership. Therefore, you should not be speaking to anyone on behalf of URTV. As president I am the only authorized person to speak for URTV.
Davyne, as you are aware you have been officially noted that you are up for dismissal from the board and as a result you also should not be speaking in behalf of URTV. As president I am the only authorized person to speak for URTV.

Sincere regards,

Jerry Young - President


To Davyne Dial

Cc jericho007

Date Fri, Apr 10, 2009 at 10:43 AM

Subject RE: Secret meeting tape / NC Open Record laws & David Gantt
i am not authorized by the URTV board of directors to release this information at this time. pat

Monday, June 20, 2011

URTV executive committee votes to remove two board members

In an illegal move to silence Board Members first amendment rights the executive committee attempts to improperly remove two Board Members:

In a closed session on Monday, Feb. 9, URTV’s executive committee voted to remove board of directors members Richard Bernier and Davyne Dial, who have criticized what they see as a lack of transparency at the public-access channel.

Bernier told Xpress that he found about the removal when he received a letter informing him of the vote and that in 10 days (on Feb. 19), “a special meeting will be held. In executive session, you will be given an opportunity to present your case. After speaking, you will leave the room and the board will vote.”

The letter is signed by Board President Jerry Young and Secretary Ralph Roberts and does not disclose the reasons for Bernier’s dismissal.

Both Bernier and Dial said they hadn’t been notified of the special meeting beforehand. The move comes on the heels of several controversies at the channel, including those over a confidentiality clause in an oath administered to board members (which was later changed), denial of a request to film a meeting and a memo from Young that muzzled board members’ ability to the press about station business.

“We have done nothing more than follow up on a request to film the meeting; since then there’s been all this negativity towards us,” Bernier told Xpress. “All we’ve done so far is try to address some basic transparency issues, because we want URTV to survive. These basic issues should have been resolved years ago.”

Dial, meanwhile, said she was notified of the vote by another board member and hadn’t yet received a letter.

“We need to be beyond these issues to deal with matters of sustainability and outreach — and we’re not,” Dial said. “What this action looks like to me is that it reveals an attitude of disrespect for the laws and rules that have been put into place. It’s like, ‘You have to follow the rules if you’re a member or mere producer, but we don’t have to follow the rules, we’re the people in charge [and] we can make up our own rules up as we go.’ Which is exactly what they’ve done. The rules aren’t for them, they’re for the little people. They think they don’t have to pay attention to what the management agreements with the city and county say.”

Bernier asserts, “I’ve only asked questions and amplified the community’s interest at board meetings, brought some issues to light. What have I done wrong? They’ve yet to advise me of that. I’d like to know what I’ve done wrong.”

URTV bylaws allow board members to be removed by a vote of two-thirds of all board members currently in office.

Under the state’s open-meetings law, which URTV is required to follow by its agreements with both the city of Asheville and Buncombe County, only matters of personnel (paid staff), property acquisition or consultation with legal counsel may be dealt with in closed session. In all those cases, the board must still begin its meeting in open session before voting to hold a closed session and citing the legal justification for such a move. On Feb. 9, at the beginning of the meeting time for the executive session, the doors to URTV’s offices — the announced meeting place — were locked.

Dial has sat on URTV’s board since last July, Bernier since September.
Executive Committee votes to remove two board members

— David Forbes, staff writer

Monday, June 13, 2011

City Attorney Bob Oast's opinion on URTV's responsibility regarding Open Meeting Laws

This statement from Bob Oast was presented by City council liaison to URTV Robin Cape (presented to the Board of Directors Oct. 23, 2006)

I have looked through our agreement with URTV, and in URTV’s articles of
incorporation. I find nothing in there that requires that their meetings be
open to the public, or otherwise conducted in accordance with the Open
Meetings law. They are not a “public body” that is explicitly subject to the
law. That does not mean that the law does not apply to them, however.
It is my understanding that URTV operates substantially with public money
(cable subscriber paid PEG funds allocated by the City and County). Its
function is the management of a TV facility for the public access station.
The equipment and space it uses is paid for with public (PEG) money as
well. A North Carolina Court of Appeals case, News and Observer
Publishing Co. v. Wake County Hospital Systems, Inc., 55 NC App. 1
(1981), held that a non-profit agency contracting with a county to operate a
public hospital is subject to the Public Records law. The main factor that led
the Court to that conclusion was that the non-profit operated largely with
public money; clearly that is occurring here. Other factors might be the
extent to which the non-profit agency is controlled by the government with
it(sic) contracts or the extent to which it performs a governmental function.
It appears that the City and County exercise some degree of control over
URTV’s operations. While TV might not by itself be a governmental
function, a strong argument could be made that public access TV is by
definition governmental.
Even though the Wake County case involved public records and not open
meetings, I think that the same arguments could be made. On this basis, I
think that URTV is subject to the Open Meetings law. This means that the
meetings are required to be open (except for legally-permitted closed
sessions). This further means that “any person may photograph, film, taperecord,
or otherwise reproduce any part of a meeting required to be open.”
NCGS 143-318.6.
Since the County has some involvement with URTV as well, I’d want to
review my opinion with their lawyer, but the law is pretty clear and I don’t
think there will be any disagreement. I’ll try to do that today.
Of course, I think your reasoning that “it’s public access, for cryin’ out loud”
makes the most sense.
I hope that this is responsive to your question; if you need any further
information or need me to address the URTV board, please let me know.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Oath of Silence and violation of public meeting laws

Mountain Express article

URTV oath sparks criticism
by David Forbes on 01/23/2009
Related topics: Buncombe Commissioners, urtv, openness, David Gantt, transparency
A confidentiality clause in an oath administered to members of public-access channel URTV‘s board at their last meeting has sparked criticism — and Buncombe County’s attorney’s office is looking into whether the vow is in line with the state’s open-meetings law.
The oath reads:

“I, the undersigned board member of URTV, do solemnly swear or affirm that I will, so far as the duty devolves on me, diligently and honestly oversee the affairs of URTV in a sound and businesslike manner; that I will not allow my actions as a member of this board to be influenced by personal or political friendships or obligations; that I will familiarize myself with the bylaws of URTV; that I will not knowingly violate or willingly permit to be violated any of the provisions in the bylaws; that I will keep confidential all the affairs of URTV, except to other members of this board in good standing or URTV staff, as necessary to the conduct of my duties.”

That last part didn’t sit well with board member Richard Bernier.
“I’m profoundly angered by this type of oath being required for a member of a board that should set an example of transparency,” Bernier told Xpress. “I found it odd when it was presented to us. We weren’t really told much about why it was needed or where it was coming from.”

URTV receives money known as PEG funds, which are collected in the form of fees from cable subscribers in Asheville and Buncombe County. Although the money doesn’t come directly out of the city and county coffers, both the Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners make appointments to the nine-member board. In January 2007, Asheville City Council amended the nonprofit channel’s management agreement to require its board to abide by North Carolina’s open-meetings law.

URTV Executive Director Pat Garlinghouse says the oath is just a formality and that while it says “all affairs of URTV,” the clause applies only to such matters as personnel or property acquisition, which public bodies can legally address in closed session.

“This is just to protect URTV,” Garlinghouse told Xpress. “It’s absolutely standard practice for a board to have a formal induction. We hadn’t been doing that. URTV does fall under open-meetings law, and we’ve been following that.”

Asked why the oath says “all affairs” if it actually refers only to those brought up in closed session, Garlinghouse replied: “The wording was just taken from a standard oath. This is just routine; this is not a story.”

But Bernier isn’t the only one concerned about the clause. Board of Commissioners Chair David Gantt, an attorney by profession, said that part of the oath “looks a little suspect to me,” adding that he’s directed the county attorney’s office to look into whether or not it conforms to open meetings law.

“It doesn’t sound like any oath — or the kind of transparency — we usually have,” Gantt told Xpress. “I understand that there are some decisions — like staff matters or property acquisition — that need to be in closed session, but we want our boards to be transparent. I hope it [the clause] was an accident.”

— David Forbes, staff writer

Treasurer Report / Peter Brezney

Treasurer Peter Brezney raises concerns regarding expenditures

Rather than look into the issues Brezney raises, the Board of Directors removes Brezney

Peter Brezneys Report on Our

Posted November 15, 2007

URTV Board not following NC Open Meeting Laws, Ignoring personnel handbook and allowing Executive Director to violate established by-laws and policies, valuable employee forced out by board's inaction:

On November 12, 2007 the URTV board of directors voted to remove Peter Brezny from the board. He was the only active producer and outspoken critic of Pat Garlinghouse on the board of directors.

Detailed information regarding violations of established policies by the Executive Director Pat Garlinghouse and the board's executive committee including Mark Wilson, Chairman, and Nelda Holder, Secretary, can be found in the PDF's Below:

October 2007 Treasurer's report (PDF) Treasurers Report

Notice to URTV Producers outlining concerns (PDF)
Brezny's farewell to members (see below)

Under the current leadership, the URTV by-laws, policies and procedures, and other governing documents have been removed from the web site. We've placed the latest copies we have available here:
URTV By-laws (PDF)
URTV Policies and Procedures (PDF)

"URTV is a fantastic resource for the community, immediate and decisive action is needed to insure it's long term survival," notes Brezny

See Asheville Citizen Times Article

Brezny's farewell message to members:

-----Original Message-----
From: Peter Brezny []
Sent: Tuesday, November 13, 2007 6:47 PM
To: ''
Subject: FW: URTV Board Decision

Dear URTV Producers,

As I am sure most of you are aware by now, the URTV board has chosen to remove me as a director of URTV.

I am sorry, though not surprised, that this administrative body has chosen to do so. By this action they have removed the only individual on the board apparently both knowledgeable of and willing to speak out against obvious violations of the bylaws and policies of URTV by the Executive Director Pat Garlinghouse.

Their vote to remove me from the board is a vote against the membership who put me on the board in the first place.

It is a vote for an Executive Director who has denied available equipment to members and alienated a once enthusiastic and supportive membership.

It is a vote for irresponsible purchasing practices that has taken money out of our local economy and placed it in the pockets of Pat's colleagues in Texas.

It's a vote for a board chairman who does not follow the guidelines in the personnel manual--one willing to allow an employee to be, in my opinion, harassed out of a job with no formal investigation.

It's a vote for a board secretary apparently incapable of meeting the guidelines of NC open meeting laws which our station has agreed to abide by, even when it's as simple as posting meeting minutes on the web site and sending notifications of board meetings in advance.

And finally, a vote against the simple and meaningful sound practice of following the established rules and guidelines put in place by those who worked so hard to bring URTV to fruition in the first place.

I am thankful that I had the opportunity to serve the membership as long as I did, and hope that all of you will continue to work toward the long term future of URTV, and find creative, positive, and effective means to let the current board of directors and executive director know that their irresponsible behavior will not be tolerated.


Peter Brezny

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mark Wilson
Date: Nov 12, 2007 4:15 PM
Subject: URTV Board Decision
To: brezny peter


At the meeting of the URTV Board of Directors today, November 12, 2007, a motion for your removal from the Board was approved 7-0 (with 1 abstention).

Mark Wilson

Further Info:

Pat Garlinghouse is hired in Jan. 2007

In a "not so well" researched decision the Board at URTV hires Pat Garlinghouse. Supposedly unbeknownest to the BOD this woman had been forced to resign her position at Houston Media Source approximately 18 months earlier.

A lot of background on this controversery can be found by Googling "Garlinghouse + Houston Media + Wiseman + $800,000"

MediaSource has 8 new board members
All but one city council member OK replacements

By MATT STILES Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
Aug. 31, 2005, 9:52PM

The City Council approved eight new board members Wednesday to oversee Houston MediaSource, the city's embattled cable public-access channel.
The new members, approved by all but one council member, will replace those on the 15-member panel whose two-year terms expired at the end of last year.
The terms of the seven remaining board members expire Dec. 31.
The newly composed board must deal with two months of controversy over the channel airing a few programs earlier this summer that had nudity and profanity.
The council repeatedly has delayed the renewal of MediaSource's $800,000 contract, which the panel is set to consider next week.
The programs also sparked a debate about whether the city could regulate the channel's content without inviting First Amendment lawsuits.
In response, Mayor Bill White proposed shaking up the board with new members who could offer fresh ideas.
Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs called the new board "a whitewash" that would do little to change the underlying issue: questions about content on the channel.
"I don't see this as any real change," she said, casting a "no" vote.
"That's not really what the citizens of Houston deserve."
Councilwoman Addie Wiseman, who first raised the issue and has been the channel's chief critic, voted for the new board members.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do when they all get together," she said.
"I'm willing to give them a chance."
Wiseman also has submitted a plan to amend the nonprofit's contract with the city, which spends fees collected by cable users to provide the channel.
She said the changes would offer safeguards to keep "obscene" material off the air.
The mayor has suggested that new leadership might be needed.
However, on Tuesday MediaSource Board President Garth Jowett said it would be "unfair" for new board members to vote to replace Executive Director Pat Garlinghouse without first hearing her accomplishments.
Jowett praised Garlinghouse for overhauling the channel's procedures, improving community education programs and increasing participation by citizen producers.

Read more:

After years of wrangling URTV opens in July of 2006...then three months later the Board inexplicably forces the resignation of Kurt Mann

URTV Board & Kurt Mann Controversy: Rapid River Says "Rehire Kurt Mann"
“The URTV Board is dismantling the very thing that had been set in motion – a diverse public having a voice on local television.”
-Byron Belzak

As published with permission in the October 2006 issue of Rapid River Magazine:

Mountains of Art
URTV Needs to Rehire Kurt Mann
By Byron Belzak

The three greatest general complaints one hears about politics today – and about dysfunctional non-profit organizations, many of which are so political that they might as well be political parties – is lack of leadership, lack of transparency, and lack of vision.

The Board of Directors of URTV – channel 20 on Charter cable television, the first public access television station to serve the Asheville area – accomplished all three things in one fell swoop when it let Kurt Mann go as its executive director.

URTV Board of Directors headed by president Mark Wilson recently told its first executive director, Kurt Mann, that it was not going to renew his one-year contract. Mann immediately resigned, and URTV is now looking for a new executive director.

Two phrases immediately come to mind: “Shooting itself in the foot” and “It’s a pissing contest.” Nobody who really knows why Kurt Mann was not extended a new contract is talking candidly. I have my suspicions of what really happened.

I also suspect that many (if not most) of URTV’s 325 members – particularly those who plan (or had planned) to produce original, locally produced programs – are shocked and dismayed about the Board’s decision. I know I am. Anyone who has seen Kurt Mann in action knows he was the absolutely perfect person for the job.

Everything was going so well. There was no warning of this happening. Crash. Boom. The URTV Board is dismantling the very thing that had been set in motion – a diverse public having a voice on local television.

The URTV Board has squandered its initial brilliant decision and goodwill of hiring local film production entrepreneur Kurt Mann in the first place. What a shame for the public; what a windfall for those who support the old guard and status quo. Kurt Mann put zing into UR and MY public access. Now it’s gone. Even if the URTV Board was not required to ask anyone’s opinions about such matters, they should have.

Kurt Mann inspired many of us to become members and producers in the first place. And that’s the whole point of URTV: to have diverse, quality, local programming that will inspire audiences to watch something other than shows produced by the Big Six media conglomerates.

Kurt Mann was getting the job done. He oversaw the physical and technical birth of the station. No small feat by a long shot. I know what it takes; I once owned, operated and managed a small video production company in Atlanta. One of my associates went on to become a top director for Disney and another is now executive director of one of the nation’s most watched public access television stations. I can spot talent. And Kurt Mann and his two hard-working staff members, Jen Mass and Paul Snow, are talent. They accomplished so much in so little time over the past year. They should all be getting raises, not the boot.

So what can those who want Kurt Mann reinstalled do? Email or phone the three local politicians who attended URTV’s July 31, 2006, successful grand opening and launch: Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, Asheville City Council member Robin Cape, and Buncombe County Commissioner David Gannt. Email current URTV Board president Mark Wilson, former URTV Board president and current member Maryanna Bailey, as well as other members of the Board. Email the URTV staff. Voice your opinion at public meetings of the URTV Board, which are held the fourth Thursday of every month beginning at 5pm at URTV headquarters and studios in downtown Asheville. Go to for directions.

And don’t forget to email me UR thoughts at I’ll publish the ready-for-primetime ones on my website: Tell me if I’m all wet on this one. I won’t mind admitting if I’m wrong. I just wonder if the URTV Board is big enough to admit if it’s been wrong.

We all make mistakes.

Copyright 2006 Mediabear