KMOJ called ‘a mess’ and ‘at risk’

Concerned Citizens group, fearing station failure, challenges board competence

(l-r) Steven Belton, Alfred Babington-Johnson, Spike Moss, Al Flowers, Charinitta Ellis, Jeff Hassan, Krystal Porter, Bill English, David Ellis, Shirlynn LaChapelle, and Jackie Cooper [back row, red hair].
(l-r) Steven Belton, Alfred Babington-Johnson, Spike Moss, Al Flowers, Charinitta Ellis, Jeff Hassan, Krystal Porter, Bill English (behind Porter), David Ellis and Shirlynn LaChapelle. (Charles Hallman/MSR News)
Many community residents are raising questions about what is happening at KMOJ-FM. The governing board has been accused of operating “under the cloak of darkness” without adequate accountability and transparency.

“Our question is, ‘Where is the KMOJ board?’ We are asking, ‘What are you doing to protect this essential community asset?” said Minneapolis Urban League President Steven Belton. He was among several others who stood outside the station’s North Minneapolis studios June 22 while speaking to reporters. They call themselves “Concerned Citizens of KMOJ.”

The group strongly questioned recent actions by the Center for Communications and Development (CCD) board, the station’s operating entity. They stated that the board is “illegal according to their own bylaws” — such as by having only five current members when a minimum of 13 board members is required. What’s more, only three board meetings have been held in the past months while a minimum of four is required each year.

The June 21 scheduled meeting did not take place and no one knows why, said the group. All CCD meetings are supposed to be open to the public, but according to Belton and others, only “closed-door meetings” have been held. Also, the CCD Community Advisory Board “has been defunct and non-operational for more than two years,” stated the group’s open letter that was distributed to the media.

Kristal Porter, an advisory board member, told the MSR, “This is our news outlet. This is our media. The community needs to know. This is a serious thing.”

“The station is at risk,” declared Belton. “We are not just out here complaining. We are here to help.” Also under scrutiny is KMOJ’s current financial situation, including an eviction notice, past-due employee payroll taxes owed, delinquent lease payments on its transmitter, and the firings in March of former station manager Kelvin Quarles and former assistant station manager Candace Breedlove.

Last week both Quarles and Breedlove spoke exclusively to the MSR in separate phone interviews. “I’d like that board to prove to me that I wasn’t doing my job,” said Quarles.

He admitted that the firing “caught me off guard. I raised revenues every year since I got here in 2004. My job was to move the organization forward, which I had done. I got a power increase for us. We have gotten beyond KMOJ and have been working on CCD.

“We got all new equipment — everything I said I would do in 2004 I have done,” Quarles continued. “Then to have an inactive board come in — when they never have been engaged or never really cared about the station, because they never did any fundraising — and make a decision about a radio station is very disturbing. That’s bad leadership,” said Quarles.

Added Breedlove, “I would like some answers, too. Before everything happened, I was told by the interim board chair Cedric Frazier and one of the other board members that I was being suspended, but to look at it as a vacation. It was a formality.”

That, she said, occurred on February 8. Nearly a month later she was fired.

“I found out from a staff member that [the board] had a meeting and told the staff members that I had been terminated without telling me,” Breedlove said. “I had to actually call the interim board chair and ask him was I terminated. He sent me an email letter” on March 17, she noted.

In addition to Frazier, the other CCD board members are John Dillon, Jessica Rogers, Eric Black and Cecelia Clemons. Our phone message to Frazier for comment was not returned by press time.

“I think Candace and Kelvin were dismissed illegally,” said Porter.

“The readers need to know what is going on,” said former CCD board member Jackie Cooper (1995-2006). She told the MSR, “Kelvin was the best one” among the eight candidates she and the board members at the time chose from when searching for a station manager.

“This isn’t about Kelvin and Candace. It’s about accountability and transparency and the community having a voice in KMOJ,” stated Belton. “It’s frightening if [board members] are meeting in private or not meeting and not [being] responsive. I sent a letter in March and another letter last week asking them to meet with us.”

“They have been hiding through this whole process,” said Quarles, “and doing it under the cloak of darkness, because they know the decision was the wrong decision. The community leadership tried to resolve this matter quietly without it going public. The interim board chair has been ducking and hiding… Either he knows he has made a mistake, or he’s just hiding because he’s scared.”

African American Leadership Forum’s Jeffery Hassan told the MSR, “We don’t have trust and confidence in [the board], who may be well intended, but who do not understand the history of our community.”

“KMOJ is the jewel of the community. We need to build on this radio station,” said Charinitta Ellis, one of the Concerned Citizens.

“Right now the board won’t engage with the community, and that’s a community radio station,” said Quarles. “The station belongs to the community, not the employees or the five board members.”

Asked if both of them want their station jobs back, Breedlove responded, “Of course.”

Quarles responded to the same question, “I would, but not under those five board members. They would have to add more board members. I never got evaluated for my job or any kind of employee evaluation. The last time I spoke with them on anything [before he was fired], they told me I was doing a great job.

“It is really insulting to me as a 31-year radio veteran… It is very disturbing to me that people who don’t know anything about the radio business are making decisions about the radio business.

“I’ve been good to my employees. It hurts me on what the staff is going through right now,” said Quarles. The MSR attempted to speak with current KMOJ employees, but none were willing to speak on the record.

“It is not a good feeling to be at a station where bad decisions were made,” said Quarles. “It’s a mess over there now. The morale is way down and the atmosphere is bad.”

“They have an obligation to meet with the community,” said Belton of the CCD board. “All of us assembled here are very concerned and are here because we don’t want to see KMOJ fail. We are just asking for some accountability.”

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.

9 Comments on “KMOJ called ‘a mess’ and ‘at risk’”

  1. Just because the board does not want to entertain these fools, does not mean they are not willing to talk to the community. Check the track records of the ones coming at them. They are all self-interest groups. Moths to flames. It quite interesting how the author glossed over the financial woes of eviction notices and back taxes. If revenue has increase as Quarles suggested, then why weren’t these bills being paid? That falls under his leadership and realm of responsibility as station matter. So that begs the question, where’s the money? What is it being spent on. Black people, please do not fall for these smoke and mirrors from these old Negro League self-interest groups.

  2. Also, anyone who has work in the business world, whether public or private, knows that personnel matters are not open to the public. Mr. Belton is a lawyer and he used to work for Minneapolis Public Schools, so he knows this better than anyone. If Quarles and Breedlove were wrongfully terminated, then they can take legal action. But instead of doing that, they want to play off the emotions of black people, like we are mindless drones. News flash to the old Negro League, we’re educated too. We are lawyers, directors and CEOs too. We’ve seen too many of you pimp the public sector and play off the emotions of black people. Not this time. I’m sure the employees were given detailed letters about their termination. Please share that with the readers Mr. Hallman and the Spokesman Recorder.

  3. How come issues with the board and whether or not they had a quorum never surfaced until now? Seems like as long as it was working in their favor, they didn’t care. I guess white Republicans are not the only ones with “good ol’ boy” clubs. This always happen when new leadership wants to break up those clubs and hold people accountable.

  4. Aint that what happen when the Obama’s took over office ? He took on the irresponsibly of others brfore him and now that he’s leavin it’s still a pile of mess left to fix thats been on the table for years. Its funny how the board shows up to fire people but, their not there to discuss the leadership or accountibility for the statio or community. When its no longer a black community station then will the community show up. Everyone going to be diversified in the suburbs. It’s nolonger a black community anyway. That’s probably why the board has no comments.

  5. Kmoj………”
    Had been jacked .taken over. ….
    Jus like all of our So-called Non-profitz….., that so call help blackz….., in the Inner Cities.
    All have been taken over……, just take a closer look. Hallie – Q Brown …. etc
    Shame……,
    Educated Onez

  6. The board has to be in compliance and you can not take action WITHOUT quorum. Kelvin Quarles as signed permission for HIS file to be shared with the community…. If they don’t want to share it he has the right to….so they need to give it to him because he has a right to it.. It doesn’t matter who ask the questions….as a community stateion they have to answer. The board meetings are suppose to be open and the minutes posted. That’s without question.

    Lisa Clemons

    Please post

  7. Something sounds fishy to me. It sounds like either embezzlement or the board does not care. Either way a board meeting needs to take place and transparency as well.

  8. My question is- what can community members do to support KMOJ during this time? I am new to the Twin Cities and I love the station for its music, programming and updates. It’s the main way I stay connected and it’s a real asset. How can I help?

  9. Seems like the solution would be to have Big Sy Huff go and moderate an “Open to the Public” Board Meeting and Community Forum. The University of St. Thomas hired that brother to moderate the E3 Lecture Series on Urban Education for state and federal leaders and he has long time ties to both the N. Mpls community and to KMOJ radio. He was also one of the ones that was fired under Kelvin Quarles / Candace Breedlove leadership because Sy reported many of the wrong doings of Quarles and Breedlove to the Board of directors at the time, and was subsequently fired for doing so. There is also talks of Big Sy having much of this and what he reported to the Board recorded (on tape) and all of the documentation of what he turned into the Board, and while he could have elected to pursue the legal suit that would have certainly made the doors of KMOJ close forever if not cause irreversible damage at best, word is his family wouldn’t let him because of his family ties to the community and station. I think you all should check your sources better before standing behind and supporting people. There is much that is missing from this story. Much!! I’m sure it will all come out in the light. It always does. Somebody needs to contact Big Sy Huff and get the real story about what was going on in that camp. That brother is the truth and we all know it!

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