VPT investigation finds some meetings violations
COLCHESTER -- The board of directors of Vermont Public Television violated federal requirements by failing to notify the public that private meetings had been held, according to an internal investigation released Wednesday.
The review by the audit committee of the board was triggered by an anonymous complaint in December. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting also is investigating.
"The audit committee's review did not identify any meetings that were improperly closed to the public. ... Each meeting that was conducted in closed session was done so in accordance with the exceptions contained in the federal open meetings requirements. There were shortcomings in terms of procedural requirements to provide post-meeting notice. Any non-compliance was limited to the absence of these one sentence website postings. There was simply no factual basis for any other allegations in the anonymous letter," said Thomas Pelletier, chairman of the board's audit committee.
CPB provides just under $1 million for the station, 16 percent of the station's operating budget, and the station cannot spend the grant money until further notice, Chuck Bongiorno, the TV station's major gifts director, said last month.
CPB requires each grant recipient to certify its continued compliance with the open meeting requirement. Pelletier said Wednesday that VPT is seeking its annual certification.
Of the 22 meetings in question, four either did not take place or didn't qualify as meetings, and 18 were properly closed to the public because personnel matters were discussed, the report found. The committee also looked at past meetings and found eight additional private meetings that were properly closed, but not properly posted afterward, Pelletier said.
The board found nothing to suggest that any board member deliberately or intentionally avoided the post-meeting notice, Pelletier said. The findings will be provided to CPB in the coming days, he said.
At Wednesday's meeting, the board also adopted the recommendations from its audit committee to ensure compliance of the federal open meetings law, such as checklist at each meeting and providing annual training on open meetings requirements. The board also rejected a call by a board member for the board's leadership to resign. Last month, staff members called for resignations from the chair and vice chair of the board of directors. Two board members have resigned in recent months.
Members of the volunteer board said they took the allegations and process for investigating them seriously and had confidence in the chair and vice chair and how they handled the matter.
Chairwoman Pamela MacKenzie and Vice Chairman Rob Hofmann will remain in their posts.
Hofmann said he's disheartened by what has happened over the last few months. "It is not easy to sit here and have anonymous allegations and sniping and innuendo put out, and have to be professional and not comment. It's incredibly frustrating," he said.
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