KDNK board, general manager can work it out
Steve Skinner will stay on as general manager of KDNK, the Carbondale nonprofit radio station’s board of directors decided in a special meeting Monday night.
The meeting was scheduled a week in advance and called for the sole purpose of discussing Skinner’s potential dismissal, and word began to spread among DJs and members of the station. Although the tone was light on air as Skinner co-hosted “GeekSpeak” in the early evening, the mood was tense as a small crowd assembled for public comment.
Many of those in attendance seem confused as to why such a move was even being considered.
“There’s no ball that’s being dropped here. People just love KDNK. We’re turning more people onto it all the time,” said Steve Cole, host of KDNK’s morning edition. “Sometimes Mr. Skinner doesn’t play well with authority. He fights the law and the law wins. But that’s not how he is as a manager … You don’t fire a coach who just won the Super Bowl just because the right tackle and the starting safety don’t like his style.”
Former KDNK board president Sloan Shoemaker agreed.
“As a lover of KDNK since 1984, I’ve never heard the station sound so good, seem so strong and be so well revered by the community,” he said. “As the executive director of a nonprofit organization, I would be proud to have the kind of record that Steve has.”
Treasurer Susan Darrow sought to clarify why Skinner’s job was in jeopardy.
“The crux of the matter was over the amount of time Steve takes off,” she said.
According to Darrow, Skinner was asked to notify the board when he would be away, and neglected to follow through. When his performance review came up in October, he was presented with a list of directives that included a requirement that board approve vacation time in advance, which he refused to sign.
At the time, Skinner said, he didn’t imagine the board would jump straight to firing him.
“I would love to sit down and talk about this, but we haven’t,” he said. “I would be delighted to work something out. I don’t want to lose my job, I don’t want a power struggle.”
Shoemaker agreed that the punishment was disproportionate to the crime.
“Let’s think about the community here, and not take the nuclear option over something that could be perceived as fairly petty and could be resolved through some focused dialogue,” he said.
“I think the board of directors should let Steve do his job as he sees fit,” added longtime DJ Art Ackerman.
A few members of the assembly sympathized with the board’s plight.
“If someone does not want to sign their contract, they’re pretty much giving up their position,” DJ Jeanne Marie said.“I think it’s not unreasonable to know that he’s gone and know who’s running the show when he’s not here.”
A letter from board member Bob Schultz, who was unable to attend the meeting, suggested that attendance may not have been the only issue. He treated Skinner’s refusal to sign as a symptom of a larger issue.
“We need a fresh start with a new general manager and a higher performing board. Our members deserve it,” he wrote, referring to Skinner’s management style as “czarlike.”
Board member Jay Leavitt took exception to that.
“This is nitpicking and losing sight of the big picture of Steve’s real accomplishments,” he said in his own statement. “It is required to have good cause for asking an employee to leave their place of employment.”
Brian Keleher, another board member who also serves as sergeant at arms for the Carbondale Rotary, invoked the organization’s Four-Way Test. Firing Steve Skinner would not, he said, be built on truth, be fair and beneficial to all concerned, or build goodwill.
Board President Mark McLain was the last to make a statement.
“It’s been absolutely impossible to govern this body. A lot of it has been a very weak board and serious resistance from Steve and interference along the way,” he said. “I don’t think the door is closed. There is still time right this minute to work this out. All we literally asked for was some accountability on vacation time. I don’t know how to be president of a board that can’t get that done.”
The board ultimately entered executive session and finally shared its decision after nearly three hours of public comment and deliberation.
“We had a very productive, cooperative meeting and we came up with new language that is hopefully acceptable to all parties,” McLain announced.
The directive was amended to read, “the GM will inform the board in advance by email before taking three or more consecutive days off.”
Skinner agreed to sign the document and the board unanimously voted to adopt the change.
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