Rattle and Humbug

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

Knock, knock; eleven o'clock.

It takes Bob Putnam five minutes to pick himself up, dust himself off and answer the front door of his Virginia Avenue home -- standard operating procedure the day after Veterans Day for a rockabilly soldier who weathered a star-spangled bender the night before. Puffy-eyed, he cracks the plastic top off a bottle of water and brews a pot of Folger's, explaining how he was up till five partying with Head of Femur, a Chicago band that headlined at the Way Out Club, the south-side live music venue he runs with his wife, KDHX-FM DJ Sherri "Danger" Lucas.

Sucking on a Camel Turkish Royal, the embers of which he taps into an oft-utilized ashtray on his dining room table, the 58-year-old Putnam, who goes by the moniker Barroom Bob, settles his stocky frame into a tiny chair, his goatee, tattoos, muttonchops, spiked hair and tight black T-shirt creating an aura of latent intimidation.

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
"Bev works for the board; the board don't work for Bev": "Barroom Bob" Putnam models his line of board president casual wear
Jennifer Silverberg
"Bev works for the board; the board don't work for Bev": "Barroom Bob" Putnam models his line of board president casual wear
Helping to reinvent dhTV: Double Helix development director Doug Whyte
Jennifer Silverberg
Helping to reinvent dhTV: Double Helix development director Doug Whyte
Operations manager Larry Weir avails himself of KDHX's new state-of-the-art digs
Jennifer Silverberg
Operations manager Larry Weir avails himself of KDHX's new state-of-the-art digs
The original KDHX crew gets ready to rock & roll, circa 1986
RFT file photo
The original KDHX crew gets ready to rock & roll, circa 1986

In this setting, as in most any other, Putnam is rock & fucking roll.

Since March, Barroom Bob has served as president of the board of directors of Double Helix Corporation, a prominent local nonprofit organization that takes in about $900,000 in revenue annually in the form of public and private support. Founded in 1972 as an offshoot of the now-defunct radio station KDNA, Double Helix is responsible for operating the community radio station KDHX (88.1 on your FM dial) and its lesser-known sibling, Double Helix Television (dhTV, Channels 21 and 22 on Charter Cable). A seasoned board member and titan of local rock and radio, in the late 1960s Putnam was a founding member of KDNA, a freewheeling, radically liberal station that made an indelible, if short-lived, imprint on St. Louis' broadcasting landscape before its 1973 sale and transformation into what is now easy, breezy KEZK (102.5 FM).

These days the typically teddy bear-like Putnam is full of piss and vinegar, embroiled in what he sees as a bitter battle for the soul of sixteen-year-old KDHX with the station's dynamic and, some would argue, diabolical executive director, Beverly Hacker. Strong-willed and savvy, Hacker, who eighteen months ago was promoted from KDHX station manager to executive director of the entire corporation -- TV and radio -- has ideas for the station's future and has wasted no time setting them into motion, protocol be damned. Here, Putnam claims, Hacker's desires stand diametrically opposed to the mission of an organization rooted in a power structure designed to empower its volunteer board, programmers and membership.

"There's no compromise with Bev on issues," groused Putnam, nursing the second of three bloody marys over lunch at Blueberry Hill a few weeks before Veterans Day. "A lot of it has to do with the spirit of KDNA and KDHX. I see that changing. When I went on the board, I was led to believe this was a working board -- like elected officials. More and more, there's talk of the board's primary duty being fundraising, and you have to ask why.

"This is about, 'What does the staffwant?'" he went on. "It shouldn't be that way. What I can't seem to make people understand is that Bev works for the board. The board don't work for Bev. When the station was first set up, the concept of 'staff' was to serve as facilitators, a conduit -- to do paperwork."

But Hacker isn't the type to push paper for a living. An accountant by trade who broke into the station a decade ago as a volunteer before ascending to board and staff levels, in that order, Hacker gets credit from even her detractors for righting Double Helix's financial ship after years of fiscal tomfoolery marked by negative bank balances and delinquent utility payments. And the station's talented, eclectic flock of volunteer programmers is generally ecstatic about KDHX's new state-of-the-art Magnolia Avenue studios, a long-desired upgrade seen through from start to finish by Hacker.

To admirers, Hacker is brilliant, decisive and visionary, a leader who swooped in just in time to kick-start a community asset stuck in second gear. But to Putnam and other detractors, the 52-year-old KDHX honcho, while undeniably talented, has devolved into a reckless megalomaniac given to exploitation of the many loopholes in the corporation's personnel manual, not to mention cronyism, nepotism, backstabbing, legalese and secrecy -- the substance of which spilled into discussion at a heated meeting of the station's board and associate members (the latter being a sort of parliamentary body of members, two dozen strong, who are charged with electing several board members each year) on October 26. With the once-close pair not currently on speaking terms, the Putnam-Hacker feud simmers still -- casting a pall of division and uncertainty over an organization accustomed to democratic resolution of even the most vitriolic melées.

"It's sad that our president and executive director are at loggerheads," says longtime board member Bob Gist. "They used to be pretty good friends."

Indeed, Hacker used to be a regular at Putnam's Way Out Club. No more -- the executive director now takes the bulk of her sips at Frederick's Music Lounge, a Chippewa Street honky-tonk co-owned by board member and on-air talent Paul Stark.

"Many decisions were made at the bar at the Way Out Club," recalls former music director and assistant station manager Tony Renner, who quit seven months ago, fed up with the organization's idiosyncratic whims and relative stagnancy. "I guess now they're being made at the bar at Frederick's."


Broadcasting at 43,000 watts since 1987 from the leftward portion of the dial customarily reserved for noncommercial radio stations, KDHX boasts 87,000 weekly listeners who are 61 percent male and 94 percent Caucasian in a city whose population is half black. According to a recent listener survey, all but 2 percent of those who tune into 88.1 on a regular basis are either gainfully employed or enrolled in school; 28 percent hold advanced college degrees beyond the standard bachelor's. Unlike the average commercial station, where morning-drive time reigns supreme, KDHX serves up its strongest numbers in the afternoons and early evenings, anchored by a weekday slate of blues shows that pull in the station's most conservative and affluent listeners.

As of August, the radio station had generated more than $450,000 in revenue for fiscal year 2003 (which ended September 30), nearly $340,000 of that through donations from KDHX's 5,000 members. Of approximately $500,000 budgeted for station expenses, $171,196 is allocated toward staff salaries. Double Helix's highest-paid employee is Hacker, whose $50,000 salary is split between the budgets of radio and television. Operations manager Larry Weir and studio engineer Sara Finke are next on the earnings totem pole, pulling down wages in the low $30,000s. All of the station's board members and on-air personalities are volunteers who receive no monetary compensation.

While KDHX airs a smattering of talk shows on topics as varied as gardening, gays and aldermanic politics, it is, "above all, a music station," says Hacker. And a music station that seeks to placate a fickle audience with dizzyingly diverse tastes in tunes, at that.

"I think they're doing an all-right job, because they have to please so many niche people," says Frank Absher, a local radio historian and former on-air personality at both KDHX and AM behemoth KMOX (1120). "The passionate ones will engage in 'appointment radio' -- if their show is coming on at 2, they'll be there. They're also willing to forgive the sins of a less professional approach to radio."

As Absher gently alludes, KDHX's all-volunteer on-air crew is less than polished at times, often fumbling for phrases that are second nature to their well-heeled commercial counterparts to the right on the dial. But what each host might lack in the banter department, he or she more than makes up for with sonic acumen. Nowhere else can a St. Louisan hear Apollo Sunshine, Mötley Crüe, Joe Jackson and De La Soul in the space of one Thursday-afternoon hour; or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Clem Snide, Guided by Voices, the Rolling Stones, Yo La Tengo, Cat Power, Outkast and Rufus Wainwright on the same Monday late-night haul. At times the eclectic selections of hosts like Frederick's Music Lounge co-owner (with Stark) Fred "Friction" Boettcher, Cat Pick, Randall Roberts and Doug Morgan transcend the boundaries of modern radio, occupying a perch of aural ecstasy normally reserved for live musicians and ace club DJs who spin till the sun comes up. (Roberts is a staff writer at Riverfront Times.)

Fans of Headshop, which provides listeners with "a trip through neglected avenues of rock & roll" (including, but not limited to, death metal), might forgive host Lee Whitfield for a little casual imbibing before his night-owl show, which airs weekly from 2 until 4 in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Not Bev Hacker, however, who suspended Whitfield for allegedly being drunk on the air the morning of September 14. Whitfield, who's also a member of KDHX's board, claims otherwise and maintains that Hacker ignored personnel procedures in her handling of the incident, which was brought to her attention via a phone call from another member of the board, said to be Paul Stark, who hosts the station's Ska's the Limit program every Friday. (Stark declined to comment for this story.)

In a letter of resignation (since rescinded) that Whitfield e-mailed to the masses on September 18, the 32-year-old head-banging host took dead aim at his alleged accuser.

"Granted, I am no saint, but if you're going to make an example out of me, then you need to make an example out of everyone else," reads Whitfield's missive. "Thanks to all who came down to the station and hung out with me and got a little rowdy on the air. I'm sure that raised Paul Stark's eyebrows as he reached for the Bible with the whiskey flask inside."

Sara Wooldridge was with Whitfield in the hours leading up to the fateful broadcast.

"We had all been out drinking, but I wouldn't say he was, like, hammered," says Wooldridge, who accompanied Whitfield to Pop's and the Way Out Club before his shift. "Let me just say that we've been up there many a night and have been way more drunk. The only thing that was maybe out of control that night was he might have said 'fuck' on the air. But I've said that before too."

Wooldridge, a 23-year-old interior-design student at Patricia Stevens College, says she received a call from Stark warning Whitfield "not to sound drunk on the air" following a period of dead air wrought by the host's inability to get a certain CD to play. Shortly thereafter, according to another companion, Jason Hilliker, Hacker burst into the studio and told Whitfield, "It's done tonight."

At that point, Hilliker says, he and Wooldridge excused themselves from the studio to let Whitfield and Hacker hash things out. Hilliker says he heard a loud thump from out in the hall and upon re-entering the studio found Whitfield, who suffers from a rare neurological disorder akin to multiple sclerosis that sometimes causes him to lose his balance, lying on the floor.

"Bev was still going about her business, getting CDs to run the show," Hilliker recounts. "She didn't even care that he was laying down on the floor. I don't think she did nothin' to make him fall down, but it seemed kind of cold for her to allow him to just lay there."

Upon receiving word of his 30-day suspension, Whitfield, with Putnam's cooperation, filed a grievance (which he later withdrew) alleging that Hacker had failed to follow Double Helix personnel protocol, which states that people believed to have been under the influence of controlled substances while on the air are entitled to a written warning before suspension or dismissal.

Hacker, meanwhile, cites Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules that consider inebriation while on air to be grounds for immediate dismissal. When in doubt, Hacker maintains, the FCC rules trump Double Helix's policies.


Whitfield insists he wasn't drunk on the air on the night in question. He also believes the incident was a convenient smokescreen for a more substantive rift that began on August 18 when Whitfield, then a member of the board's personnel committee, e-mailed a request to Hacker seeking a comprehensive list of personnel data for all current paid radio staff. Included among the data sought were each employee's qualifications, performance reviews, education, prior employment history and rate of salary.

"I'm thinking, 'Okay, I'm on the board, we're privy to this sort of thing," says Whitfield, citing pages fourteen and fifteen of Double Helix's personnel manual: "An employee's permission shall be obtained in writing before releasing information from personnel files to anyone other than the employee's supervisor, the Station Manager, or representatives from the Board of Directors, including the Personnel Committee of the Board of Directors."

Hacker declined to release the records on the advice of the corporation's attorney, citing confidentiality issues. The executive director further stated that if the board wanted such information, it would have to seek it in the form of a written request that outlined its reasons for wanting to review the data and that formally designated a representative or representatives to do so on behalf of the committee or the board.

This sent Putnam, who interprets the personnel manual's use of "representatives" to mean any individual board member, off a cliff. His gripes were laid bare before the corporation's associate members at the October 26 powwow.

"I believe that radio and television each need their own manager," said Putnam, in reference to two key vacancies under Hacker, the filling of which would serve to dilute the executive director's concentration of power. "I also believe that all jobs filled, be they part-time, full-time, temporary, subcontracted, etc., should be open to people..... Currently, as a board, we have no idea of the qualifications of at least three full-time employees, the selection process that put them in those positions or their salaries. How can we, as a board, protect the rights of our Double Helix employees or shareholders if we have no right to review salaries, qualifications, etc., to make sure they are administered fairly?

"After much perusing of the corporate documents," Putnam went on, reading from a prepared text in front of a group of two dozen that had crowded into the station's back room, "I can find nowhere that states that the board has to vote to request any information from the managers. I believe doing so would be in flagrant violation of the bylaws, which give full power to the board to control and manage property, business and affairs of the corporation. Nowhere in the corporate documents is it stated that a majority of the board is required for any board member to view or access corporate documents. I believe this would weaken the board's power to oversee the business of the corporation."

Putnam then turned his attention to the Whitfield imbroglio.

"Also, I believe the personnel manual should cover volunteer staff as well as paid staff, and any grievance procedure that is in place for paid employees should be the same for volunteers," he said. "The truth of the matter is that the fear and paranoia that exists among volunteers and programmers would be greatly reduced if all had basic rights to a disciplinary procedure and a grievance procedure. The Lee Whitfield incident would never have happened."

Counters Hacker: "Lee Whitfield filed a grievance per the manual and then rescinded it, and Bob took part in the procedures. So it would seem that both Lee and Bob are quite well aware that the personnel policy grievance guidelines apply to volunteers."

After two hours of contentious debate, it was decided that the personnel committee would revise the personnel manual for review and approval by the full board at its January meeting. But what appears on its surface to be a reasonable resolution has done little to thaw the relationship between Hacker and Putnam.


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.

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, bethe 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."

Still, Gist admits to raising an eyebrow at one of the hires.

"It all basically boils down to hiring Sara [Finke]," Gist says of the station's lead engineer, whom Renner and others insinuate would struggle to point out the differences between a sound mixer and the flight panel on a single-engine Cessna. "You have to bear in mind, though, that we, as an organization, have always pulled from our ranks. Sara was a volunteer. Bev was a volunteer. Some of our best employees started as volunteers."

Finke's competency isn't the only issue. The other is that Finke, a transsexual, once was Hacker's husband. There are amicable breakups, and then there's Bev and Sara. A large, framed black-and-white photograph of a cow taken by Finke hangs proudly in Hacker's KDHX office. Furthermore, in addition to being Finke's employer, Hacker is her landlord; the two reside in separate units of the same south-side dwelling owned by Hacker.

Gist, generally regarded as one of the organization's most knowledgeable and diplomatic board members, acknowledges that there are allegations of nepotism and cronyism swirling around Finke's employment. He hopes that's where the bitterness ends.

"You'd like to think that's all it is," says Gist. "I hope it's not homophobia."

"She could have hired anybody," says Finke, dismissing the matter.

But she didn't. Instead Hacker promoted her ex-husband/tenant/father of her children/friend under the auspices of "exigent circumstances." And the issue doesn't appear to be going away any time soon.

"I don't see the door of KDHX open to women and minorities," charged Bob Putnam's wife, Way Out Club co-owner and KDHX associate member Sherri Lucas, who is African-American, at the October 26 meeting. "Sara, your ex-husband, shares a house with you, and you pay her salary. I'm a mechanical engineer, and I didn't hear about [the position]. I think there's some nepotism going on here."

"If there was an issue, why wasn't it brought up then?" responded Hacker, again noting the timing of the attacks on her promotion of Finke.

Putnam speculates that Hacker's refusal to disclose employee information has to do with the executive director's touchiness about the issue of Finke's suitability for her post. "I don't think there are any qualifications there," Putnam says of Finke. "Sara is incompetent."


Finding someone associated with KDHX to verbally undress ex-station golden boy Tony Renner is about as easy as finding a nuclear warhead in Iraq. But the love fest between the station and Renner is hardly reciprocal.

The 43-year-old Renner was Hacker's second in command at radio before he quit working for the station seven months ago, citing irreconcilable differences with Hacker and a desire to complete his undergraduate coursework at Washington University.

"He wants to tell people how to do their show," says Hacker, teetering on the brink of harsh criticism. "To me, that goes against artists really doing art."

Hacker stops short of taking the gloves off, describing the split with Renner as amiable and saying she'd welcome him back at any time. But Renner's not so warm and fuzzy.

"When in doubt, remodel," Renner quips, summarizing what he feels is the extent of Hacker's vision for the station. "She's a micromanager. People who rise to executive director have to learn to delegate. I think the station could bring St. Louis together, convince white people that it's okay to go north of Delmar. She has a totally different vision, and she's the boss. What could I do?"

One way to accomplish his objective, Renner says, would be through sharp, focused public-affairs programming. Much of KDHX's current lineup of talkies doesn't cut the mustard, he argues. "Because of the lack of standards [at the station], they don't have the credibility they could. I hate rules, but if you do simple things, it's really easy on the listener. You educate them."

Doug Morgan's Thursday-afternoon Underworld and Al Becker's Sunday-night Voices in the Darkare the only two current KDHX shows that pass Renner's professionality litmus test. Of Fred Friction's twang-infested Fishin' With Dynamite, a Thursday-morning music show with a cult following that represents itself well come pledge-drive time, Renner says, "The response would be, 'But it works.' But it'd work a lot better if it was professional."

Renner gives Hacker credit for bringing a certain level of sophistication to the station's fundraising operation, but he qualifies his praise by saying that Hacker's accomplishments have "calcified," with the station perennially hampered by a board that refuses to focus even minimal energy on fundraising, save for seasonal pledge drives.

Hacker agrees that this is an issue and has pushed for the board to add more movers and shakers from outside its inner sanctum. The recent addition of Kim Love, who works for the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, to the KDHX board is evidence that Hacker is making progress on this front. But there's only so much she can do with a board whose members consider hands-on solicitation of funds to be anyone's problem but their own.

"That's not 'community media,'" personnel chair Dever complains of the move to bring in high-powered outsiders.

"That's what we'd hoped to accomplish by reinvigorating the community advisory panel," adds Bob Gist, citing a plan to establish an auxiliary board of local notables to focus on procuring major gifts. "But the community should have a fair amount of control," he cautions. "Our funding sources right now keep us that way."

Morgan, the board member/contract staffer/radio show host who also co-owns the Delmar Lounge, is another booster of the community advisory panel. But pressed to name someone who has served on the panel, Morgan cannot recall a single name. This might be because, as Hacker concedes, "the community advisory panel has not really ever gotten off the ground."

Tom Thomas is the founder of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters who is now CEO of the Station Resource Group, a Washington, D.C.-area outfit that provides strategic consulting services to community and public radio stations. Before he held such prestigious titles, he served as KDNA's station manager during the station's final year on the air (1973) and was influential in the formation of Double Helix, which, after fifteen years of providing audiovisual services to the likes of Ralston Purina to scrape by while struggling to secure a frequency, spawned KDHX and dhTV. Board members who don't feel as though fundraising is one of their obligations should "quit the board," says Thomas.

"Anybody who's part of an organization that depends on the community to sustain itself who is not willing to take a strong role in asking others to support it is not taking the appropriate fiduciary role," he elaborates. "That's true if it's community radio, a hospital or a theater."

Ultimately, Gist admits, a hardy influx of outsiders like Love might be the only solution.

"We need fresh blood, always, but the poor attendance of the board and committee meetings have been the status quo since I came on board," says Gist. "Most people get involved for the programming, which is a fun thing, whereas the boards and committees are work. We are kind of a closed loop, this organization. A lot of employees come out of membership. It's tough to get outside that circle."


If one were attempting to boil down the current crisis with a political analogy, one might say that Hacker's Andy Card is attempting to hijack the Union from Barroom Bob's George W. Bush. By law, of course, the chief of staff isn't supposed to usurp the commander in chief.

Or, as Tony Renner puts it: "Baseball would be a whole lot more entertaining if you could get the runner out by throwing the ball at him. But those aren't the rules."

Still, KDHX, an entity rife with checks and balances designed to give power to the people, isn't quite as simple as a slow roller to second.

"Bev's turned it into a business because she had to. Transmitters don't grow on trees," radio historian Frank Absher says. "The way it's set up, it makes it virtually impossible to manage, because everything has to be approved by boards. A real radio manager would go crazy, because the manager's power is so limited by [Double Helix's] constitution. What this begets is political infighting. KDHX has so many people who are desperate for power that they're eroding what the station's doing. The backstabbing there is almost equivalent to what you'd see on a network level."

Maybe so, but such power struggles are hardly unique to KDHX, says one national authority.

"They have been in a strong period of growth over the last four or five years," notes Carol Pierson, president and CEO of the Oakland-based National Federation of Community Broadcasters. "At some stations, that's created a lot of conflict between people who have different ideas about the mission of the station. When a station can reach kind of a clear consensus about what the purpose of the station is, that helps to pull people together. There may be difference of opinion, but it's not usually quite as divisive as when there isn't kind of a clear, shared mission."

Even if Putnam and Hacker fail to reach détente, the former's term as board chair ends in February. By then, under the best-case scenario, the board will have adopted a new set of personnel policies, a process that's already in motion. One might imagine that such a turn of events would serve as legislative salve for a wide-open wound. But should said revision require Hacker to provide the board with unfettered access to employee personnel files, the executive director might find herself in a sticky predicament.

None of this, however, should threaten the life of a station that, pimples and all, enjoys a devoted following in the city -- or at least in its pale-faced half.

"The station will exist in spite of itself," predicts Absher.

For some, though, the current stagnancy is a glass half-empty.

"After sixteen years," says Renner, "KDHX should be in a lot better shape than they are."

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