WDBX station manager calls its quits, citing 'abusive, bullying treatment' by board of directors
Richard Sitler, The Southern
WDBX 91.1 is a community radio station serving Southern
THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTO
WDBX radio station manager Dave Armstrong is pictured in the
WDBX studio in April 2016.
CARBONDALE — The manager of Carbondale’s community radio station told The Southern on Tuesday he has officially quit his job, following months of turmoil with the station's board of directors.
Dave Armstrong took over as the station manager of WDBX 91.1 FM in late 2012. He had been a volunteer with the organization since 2001.
“This has not been an easy choice to make,” Armstrong said in a post on the WDBX Facebook page. “Although I had a sincere desire to stay; the abusive, bullying treatment I have received from my bosses has made it impossible to perform my job — it seems certain to me that this is their intent.”
WDBX is run by Heterodyne Broadcasting Company, which is a not-for-profit company doing business as WDBX.
Armstrong told The Southern that he felt he was “forced out” because he and others wanted to bring community radio back in the control of the community. Additionally, he said he wanted to provide accountability to the community.
According to the station’s website, WDBX is governed by a seven-member advisory board, two of which are permanent members of Heterodyne, and five of which are elected or appointed for a two-year term at the discretion of the Heterodyne Broadcasting Company Board.
The two permanent members are Gene Turk and Tom Egert, who also make up the board of directors — Armstrong's now former bosses.
In the early days of the organization, Armstrong said the station used to hold elections to make up its board of directors, which were decided by its donors.
Sometime later, he said these elections were done away with and the advisory board was created by appointment only. Back in December, Armstrong and members of the advisory board penned a letter to the public calling for the resignation of the two permanent members.
CARBONDALE — A community radio station manager claims the station's Board of Directors has been hands-off and absent in the management and day-to-day operations of the business, and he and volunteers need them to resign so the entity can move forward.
In the open letter, the authors suggest that once the board resigns, that a committee convene to appoint a new seven-member governing board.
"A timeline of one week was set to begin this process — to have a meaningful meeting with this goal in mind, and to start the difficult work necessary to move forward," the open letter, published in December 2017, reads. "It was also made clear that after that week, a lack of meaningful engagement from the Board members would result in our public expression of those demands, and a call for the resignation of all current Heterodyne Board members."
The letter was signed by Armstrong and five advisory board members, 11 volunteers, one underwriter/volunteer and one listener-supporter.
Armstrong said the advisory board never felt like it had any real power to make decisions and the permanent members held the most weight.
“I feel strongly that any organization that solicits information from the community has to be held accountable by the community,” Armstrong said. “I believe our volunteers and supporters vastly support full elections across the board. I don’t think it is unreasonable to be suspicious of an organization that so adamantly discourages accountability to the community and democracy.”
Egert said he didn't believe the reason behind Armstrong's quitting had anything to do with the turmoil between the manager and the board of directors.
"I think there are some things he wanted to do with his life," he said. "We are fine and will be accepting applications for new people."
He said those interested in the position can send resumes to email@example.com.
Armstrong said he is willing to work with the station to ensure a smooth transition, but he felt he couldn’t continue to do his job at the station.
“I don’t want to see community radio harmed and I hope there is a day I can be back in the studio,” he said. “My hands were chained to the point that I couldn’t do basic job functions.”
Turk said he wishes Armstrong well and that he was generous for sticking around the organization while it finds its next manager.
"I think we’ll be OK," he said. "We already had some people who said they would step up and make things work in the meantime on an interim basis."
He said he met with Armstrong for about an hour Tuesday about moving forward.
Armstrong said he is a true believer in community radio, and many of the problems around local communities and the nation can be solved by listening and talking to one another. He said community radio is a place where people talk, ideas are exchanged, and people hear one another.
“I am true believer in community radio,” he said. “I believe community radio challenges many of the problems we have in the world today and can find solutions to lots of them.”
WDBX is run by about 100 volunteers — excluding Armstrong, who was its only paid staff member. The station has an operating budget of $100,000, about two-thirds of which comes from community donations and the other one-third from underwriters and sponsorships.