St. Louis community radio station KDHX has hired a lawyer in advance of several pending legal issues, Board President Gary Pierson revealed at a virtual board meeting Monday night.
Pierson identified a lawsuit from Andrea “Drea” Stein and an attempt from the DJs to institute a collective bargaining agreement as the impetus. At the same meeting, he also briefed the board on an effort to remove two board members.
Those efforts have grown out of outrage from volunteer and community groups in the wake of dismissals of longtime DJs Stein, Andy Coco and Tom “Papa” Ray, as well as the suspension of Paul “Grandfather” Stark.
David Weiss of the law firm Sandberg Phoenix will be representing the station. Pierson did not disclose how much he will be paid.
“It’s really clear to me, and I think all of us at KDHX that we’re at a serious crossroads,” Pierson told the board Monday.
In a public statement last month, the station had stated that it had fired two volunteer DJs for encouraging listeners to defund the station. Stein identified herself to the RFT as one of the DJs — but insisted the charge was false. She is seeking a temporary restraining order to compel Executive Director Kelly Wells and KDHX’s parent nonprofit, Double Helix, to reinstate her as a DJ and associate member, remove any published statements about her or issue a correction, and to prevent “any retaliatory of punitive administrative actions” against her or any other associate member.
She is represented by Christopher Blake Schwarz, who says the case hinges on her status as an associate member, a category of active volunteer who, according to Double Helix’s bylaws, has completed a training program and signed a volunteer agreement. Her suit states that Double Helix’ bylaws don’t provide a process for termination. Schwarz notes that she was not offered “due process” before being dismissed.
He said that they will be arguing that Stein’s relationship with the station is akin to that of a landlord-tenant situation, where she was “renting” two hours of valuable air time weekly in exchange for the work she put in and the right to use her name and likeness.
Schwarz is also a KDHX DJ whose show Next Exit airs on Tuesday afternoons. The first hearing in Stein’s case is scheduled for today at 1:30 p.m.
On September 1, Drea launched a GoFundMe to help pay for lawyer’s fees, raising $6,579 out of a goal of $5,000 from 132 donations.
On the fundraising platform, she wrote of her disappointment in the station’s current relationship with the DJs.
“There are many other things that management have done that have betrayed the trust of the community by changing the bylaws improperly and then not living up to the changes that they made in those bylaws,” Stein continued. “How can you be a community radio station if all power is placed in one person's hands?”
Pierson also briefed board members Monday about an upcoming special meeting that associate members have called to take a vote of no confidence in two board members. According to KDHX’s bylaws, associate members can vote in 3 of the 15 board members and, presumably, remove them. Currently, two board members are being targeted by some critics of the board.
“The basis for calling this meeting is certainly open to challenge as being flawed, and we believe that [if] there’s a fraudulent basis that it would not be a valid meeting and whatever happens there and whatever action is taken would essentially be of no effect,” Pierson said, noting that there’s no provision for associate members to elect new board members midterm, calling it a “futile exercise.”
Though Wells has long been the focus of those unhappy with the station, many members of the SAVE KDHX 88.1 Facebook group, and others with similar perspectives, have discussed strategies to add board members since only 8 of the 15 slots are currently filled.
The associates’ meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 26, at Central Stage at 3524 Washington Avenue.
The final legal issue discussed at the meeting comes from a group of volunteers, the League of Associate Members, who seek something akin to collective bargaining with the station. During the meeting, Pierson said that the station had “responded as counsel suggests” without providing details.
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