Rattle and Humbug

Cronyism! Nepotism! Backstabbing! Secrecy! So that's why they call it "community radio"!


The South City Diner serves as a veritable satellite office for Hacker, who's sipping weak coffee in a booth at the Grand Avenue institution while confidently musing about her record since being named executive director.

"In the course of the last eighteen months, I've taken a failing operation and turned it around," asserts Hacker, who is as assured, articulate and calibrated one-on-one as she can be gruff, domineering and defensive in a group setting.

Kelly K. from Thee Raspberry Company, photographed
Ire and nice: To some, Double Helix executive director Beverly Hacker is a visionary genius; to others, she's a reckless megalomaniac
Jennifer Silverberg
Ire and nice: To some, Double Helix executive director Beverly Hacker is a visionary genius; to others, she's a reckless megalomaniac

Even Whitfield praises the job Hacker has done getting the corporation's books in order, a state of affairs sure to be bolstered by the recent hire of development director Doug Whyte, by all accounts a level-headed bloke whose skills in filmmaking, video production and fundraising make him a versatile asset.

Hacker, too, is a multitasker. With the two station-manager positions (one for TV, one for radio) vacant beneath her on Double Helix's organizational chart, she's essentially, by her own admission, juggling three daunting jobs, an organizational maneuver touched off by what Hacker labels a "pretty spectacular failure" by the folks who'd been in charge of dhTV. (For more on dhTV, see accompanying sidebar.) At present, Hacker and board members like Gist and interim personnel committee chair Paul Dever feel that funds that could theoretically be used to fill the management vacancies would be better spent by hiring a marketing director to expand the station's reach beyond its south-city core.

"If it's only word of mouth and hipsters and scenesters, it'll have its limitations," agrees Whitfield, who has long advocated for more marketing oomph for the station. But Putnam and former KDHX staffer Tony Renner aren't so sure.

"I'd rather see two station managers," Putnam submits, pointing out that the marketing director is a newly created position. "The executive director should, in effect, be the marketing director. Bev's whole idea is, 'I'm not good at that; that's not my strong point.'"

"How does one person do three jobs?" Renner asks incredulously.

One of Hacker's strong points is that she knows Double Helix and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) rules inside and out -- perhaps better than anyone on the board whose job it is to oversee her. She knows, per Double Helix's internal policies, that board members cannot be staff members, and vice versa -- which is why, when board member and radio show host Doug Morgan expressed an interest in selling underwriting on a commission basis for the station, Hacker persuaded the board to approve an agreement with Morgan as an independent contractor rather than forcing him to choose between one role or the other. This happened only after Morgan threatened to quit the board. (Morgan's name currently appears on the staff masthead on the station's Web site, where he is afforded a station phone line and e-mail account -- cozy allocations for a subcontractor.)

Hacker also knows that while EEO rules require her to conduct an extensive, open search for full-time hires, no such rigmarole is mandated for part-time hires. Ditto if exigent circumstances necessitate an internal promotion from part- to full-time status. It is precisely this last loophole that Hacker maneuvered through in order to justify her promotion of two employees from part-time to full-time status in July 2002: information technologies manager Dan Adelman and studio engineer Sara Finke.

"I took over the operations at TV, where there was a huge amount of studio and field equipment that was improperly maintained and in some cases improperly installed," Hacker recounts. "The same was true of the computer equipment. I had a qualified studio tech and qualified IT person with expertise in video hardware and software working part-time, both at far below market rate. In July 2002 I proposed to the board that these two people be moved from part-time at radio to full-time, splitting their time between radio and TV. Which is what we did."

Putnam, who opines that neither appointee is adequately qualified, doesn't buy it.

"I have a problem with being able to skirt the letter of the law," he says. "When, if ever, do you have [multiple] positions that need to be filled immediately with people who started as volunteers?"

Hacker says that if Putnam had a problem with the promotions, he should have voiced his opinion at the time they were executed. "I'm a little confused as to why it's coming up now," she says.

Bob Gist agrees that the timing of Putnam's tantrum is peculiarly tardy and perhaps a tad clumsy administratively.

"The way Bob went about it, I did not understand," says Gist, referring to Putnam's brain dump at the October 26 associates' meeting. "I don't understand the need to keep issues under wraps until they blew up. That sort of energy was not necessary and completely detrimental to the organization -- all this commotion and damage to bring something to the board when it could have been done at any time without the carnage. If he still had issues with hiring, at any point he could have said, 'We need to look at this.' Instead, he tried to back-door. Does that mean he doesn't trust the board? I don't know."

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