The Cheshire TV membership ousted nearly half of its board of directors Tuesday night in a meeting filled with arguments, interruptions and requests for someone to explain what was going on.
The Zoom session was the culmination of months of tension, stemming from accusations originally put forth by former CTV Executive Director Lee Perkins, who had taken issue with the way the board was conducting business. Perkins, who left his post in 2014 but is a member of the organization, said last year that the board had been failing to follow the bylaws, had fired two employees for improper reasons and skipped two elections.
Cheshire TV is a public-access station that serves the communities of Keene, Swanzey and Marlborough. The organization is made up of members — people who are involved with Cheshire TV and produce content but are not on the board of directors.
The nonprofit was originally funded via a cable franchise fee paid to the city of Keene by area cable providers. But in January 2019, the city executed a new agreement, in which Cheshire TV receives a flat rate of $15,150 each month.
During Tuesday’s meeting, board Chairwoman Jodi Turner and board members Kristina Germano, Robert Milliken, David Payson and Conan Salada were all voted out by a majority of the more than 40 members of the organization in attendance by videoconference. Four CTV members had called for the meeting in an Oct. 15 letter to the board for the purpose of taking a membership vote on whether to remove board members.
Turner, who had served on the board since the fall of 2019 and became chair in mid-2020, acknowledged in October that the board of directors hadn’t always adhered to the bylaws and that elections had been missed. But she said at the time that the board has been working to fine-tune its procedures. The 12-person board also held a meeting last week, during which CTV members elected five new board members, none of whom were removed Tuesday.
Tuesday’s meeting involved a great deal of back-and-forth about how to properly conduct the session but lacked discussion about what the board members in question were believed to have done wrong. Participants also expressed uncertainty about how to proceed once the vote to remove Turner left the board without a leader and the attorney representing Cheshire TV questioned the vote’s legality.
“I frankly have never seen a meeting like this,” said attorney Bradford Cook. “You seem to have a lot of people participating who, under your articles [of incorporation] ... weren’t qualified to vote. So I question whether what was done tonight was legal.”
Cook said that while it would require an analysis, he thought that there may have been a number of people participating in Tuesday’s meeting who aren’t residents of Keene, Swanzey or Marlborough, the three communities Cheshire TV was created to serve. He said the organization’s articles of agreement with the state stipulate that membership be made up of residents from those three communities.
But since its inception in 2006, Perkins said, Cheshire TV has always had members from outside Keene, Swanzey and Marlborough.
“We have always had members, including appointed members, who were not residents of those three communities because they are stakeholders in the region,” Perkins said.
David Kirkpatrick of Antrim was the sole member Tuesday to say he doesn’t live in the specified area. Kirkpatrick, who was fired from his position as a field production manager over the summer, has said he feels he was terminated because of a Facebook post he made complaining about conditions at the station. Turner has adamantly denied this is why he was let go.
Several members of the organization, including a few who said they’re new, said Tuesday that they didn’t have enough information about why members were being asked to vote to remove the board members and asked for more discussion about why the meeting was taking place. Kirkpatrick replied that “the board has failed in their duties to do the business that they’re here to do,” such as giving notice for meetings, keeping minutes and having meetings that are easily accessible to the public.
“It goes on and on,” Kirkpatrick said. “If you’re not tuned in, it’s because you haven’t been paying attention for a long time.”
One removal that sparked quite a bit of discussion was Milliken’s. He was the appointee to the board from N.H. School Administrative Unit 29, which, along with Keene State College, Keene and Swanzey, has the right under the bylaws to appoint one member to the board. Marlborough also used to appoint a board member but no longer participates.
Cook, the lawyer, advised against removing members appointed by outside organizations, noting that they can just be reappointed and calling the removal an “empty exercise.”
There was also some confusion and disagreement about when it would be possible to fill the newly vacant, non-appointed seats. One person argued that the members could do it within 30 days, the minimum time required after providing notice of a special meeting, while Cook said that, according to CTV’s bylaws, they would have to wait six months.
“You will be working with a lame board again,” Germano said after she had been voted out, “because there’s so much work to be done.”
The group was even unable to agree on when to adjourn the meeting when, after the votes to remove both Turner and Salada, the board found itself without a chairperson or a secretary. While member Kyrston Clouse, Perkins’ daughter, volunteered to serve as acting secretary to read the roll call for the remaining votes, there was some debate about whether or not to appoint an acting chair as well.
The matter was ultimately left for the next time the gutted board meets.Mia Summerson can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MiaSummerson