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KOPN KONTROVERSY: Allegations of unfair dealings shake beloved CoMo radio station

"Disrespectful" hiring and firing

COLUMBIA, Mo  12/15/17 (Beat Byte) -- Controversy over the departure of a longtime general manager has a veteran KOPN volunteer stepping away from the Columbia community radio station.
 
"I recently resigned my position as host of Evening Edition, a weekly issues/interviews show, a volunteer position I’ve held for the past 20 years," Mark Haim announced in a letter to KOPN supporters widely distributed on social media. "I did so because I was deeply disturbed by the actions of our Board of Directors." 

Hiring and firing the general manager is "likely the single most important decision that the board makes," Haim explained. "The current board has done poorly in this department." 
 
Most troubling to Haim, a well-known peace activist and owner of downtown Columbia's Peace Nook, was the "heavy-handed fashion in which the board removed longtime General Manager David Owens last summer," he explained, citing "a lack of respect for, and appreciation of, David’s many decades of service to KOPN and the broader community.  

"Quite a few volunteers and other members were alienated in the process." 

Although interim general manager Tao Weilundemo has offered "capable direction" since Owens' departure, Haim also claims the process of hiring Owens' replacement, Sean Spence, was "seriously flawed." 

The hiring committee posted the job application deadline only four days after announcing the job vacancy, Haim says.  The short deadline excluded "at least one highly-qualified candidate." 

An email Haim says he received from another board member suggested the decision to hire Spence "was actually made a week before it was announced, and thus 11 days before the deadline, which strikes me as even more egregious." 

Some board members, Haim says, told him the hiring process was routine.  But others disagreed. 

"Board secretary Heather O’Connor raised concerns about the timing of the decision process at the last board meeting," he explains. "I appreciate her publicly speaking out against the way this was handled."

People who support the radio station with donations and volunteerism, and non-profit experts, also found the process troubling, Haim says.  "I’ve talked with more than 40 KOPN members and supporters, and not one person I’ve spoken with thinks that this is routine or OK."   In the non-profit community, "there's been a broad consensus that short-circuiting the process by making a hire prior to the deadline is just plain wrong."
 
About a January 7 board member election, Haim suggests board chair Dan Hemmelgarn and treasurer Allen Vaught, both up for re-election, "move on."  Their defense of the hiring and firing process is "disqualifying," Haim explains.  
 
On the job just over a week, Spence declined to comment on the controversy.  "My focus is on helping to build the best KOPN I can," Spence explained. "I have faith that the membership and board will do what is best for KOPN."  
 
 
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