The Sopris Sun

KDNK board parts ways with Steve Skinner

Annual meeting Dec. 5

By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

The board of directors at KDNK, Carbondale’s community access radio station, declined to provide specific reasons behind last week’s termination of long-time station manager Steve Skinner. When asked why, Board President Bob Schultz explained, “In personnel matters, you just don’t do that.” Skinner’s employment ended on Nov. 22, following his annual review by the board on Nov. 21.

At least one board member, board treasurer Susan Darrow, stressed that the decision was not part of a long-term campaign to get rid of Skinner, whose job was on the line on at least one prior occasion in the last two years — in December, 2014.

“This was not a conspiracy in any way,” said Darrow on Tuesday, after she noted that the board members had agreed to avoid making individual statements about the matter, and to stick to a prepared statement issued on Nov. 23 announcing the decision and expressing gratitude for Skinner’s service during his decade-plus at the helm.

Schultz noted that there is a planned discussion about the station’s future at its next general membership meeting, on Dec. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the station, 76 S. 2nd St., in Carbondale.

The prepared statement about Skinner’s dismissal, which was sent to the station’s volunteer disc jockeys but not to the general membership, simply states that the board “has decided to make a change in management … with overall long-term interests of the station at heart,” and that the change is being made “in order to face the challenges and opportunities impacting community access radio” across the nation.

Schultz, who will be stepping down from the board at the end of December, admitted to The Sopris Sun that there were concrete considerations, including budget shortfalls last year and this year (to date), that played into the decision.

Schultz said there was a $10,000 budget shortfall in 2015, and Skinner himself acknowledged that the station’s budget is under performing this year by perhaps as much as $50,000, “out of a $250,000 budget.”

But Skinner, reached at his home up the Crystal River, said he felt things were looking up.

Likening his job to being a quarterback on a football team, he said, “We’ve addressed the budget shortfalls. If it’s about the money, they didn’t let me finish. I was running with the ball” adding that he believed he could raise sufficient income in December to get close to finishing in the black.

In general, Skinner continued, “I think it’s a personality thing. It takes a team (to run a nonprofit radio station), and those guys didn’t want to play on my team.”

He also noted that the board’s makeup has changed considerably in the past couple of years, reaching back to the last time his job was in jeopardy, in 2014.

That year, he held onto his post thanks in large part to testimonials from disc jockeys and other station personnel.

But this year, he said, the board was made up of two veterans (Schultz and Darrow), and “a bunch of newbies who didn’t really know me,” though he backed away from saying the votes of the “newbies” were influenced by the opinions of the veterans.

Both Schultz and Darrow will be stepping down from the board in December, as a consequence of term limits established two years ago. Also leaving is board member Shirley Aguilar, who has not attended meetings for the past few months, according to Schultz.

Skinner said some of the problems at the station had to do with turnover of key personnel, notably the loss of his membership director and his underwriting director. He said those departures hurt the station’s finances and organization, though he said the people now filling those posts are doing well for the station.

“My most profound weakness,” he said, “was definitely dealing with the board. I didn’t nurture those relationships as I should have.”

Asked what he plans to do now that he is not running the station, Skinner said he was not sure and then quoted a line from Bruce Springsteen’s song, Dancing In The Dark: “This gun’s for hire.”

As for the station, he said he will not be hanging around in any capacity, and added, “Hopefully, the next person will get love and cooperation from the board, because that’s what it takes for that job.”

Skinner held the job of manager three times since the station’s inception in 1983 — in 1986 (for one year), in 1989 (again, for a year), and finally from 2006 until this year.

In response to a question from The Sopris Sun, he sent a two-page list of the staff and board’s accomplishments during his tenure, which include setting up a new production room for news and other needs; setting up a translator for listeners in Leadville; bringing National Public Radio programming to the mornings and afternoons; buying the building the station occupies; hiring a full-time news director with a reporter, and a full-time program director as part of a stabilization of the staff in general; “development of a robust underwriting program” to bring in cash to the station’s coffers; landscaping improvements around the station’s grounds; production of KDNK “compilation CDs” and creation of the Sopris Music Festival and other events.

Schultz stressed that the board will be taking a look at the station’s future prospects at the Dec. 5 general membership meeting.

“We want to share with our members what we see going on in the community radio landscape, and hear what they have to say about the station’s future,” he said, emphasizing that the meeting is not expected to become a complaint session about Skinner in any way.

According to Board Secretary Andi Korber, Board Member Maria Wimmer made the motion to dismiss Skinner.

Korber amended the motion to include a severance payment, and Wimmer accepted the amendment. “We have given Steve a proposed severance agreement and he is considering it,” Korber told The Sopris Sun in an email.

The vote to dismiss Skinner was unanimous among those attending the meeting.

Voting to dismiss Skinner were: Korber, Wimmer, Bob Schultz, Susie Darrow, Shirley Aguilar, Stu Bryner II, Annalise Appel and Scott Levine, according to Korber.

Only three candidates submitted self-nomination applications for the board’s three open seats – Lee Ingram, Heather Dalton and Amy Taylor – so there will not be a board election at the Dec. 5 annual meeting.

KDNK board statement

Sopris Sun Staff Report

Here is the e-mail the KDNK board sent to KDNK volunteer DJs, but not the general membership or local news outlets:

“The KDNK Board of Directors asked me (program director Luke Nestler) to pass this message along to all you DJs:

“The KDNK Board of Directors has decided to make a change in management at the station with overall long-term interests of the station at heart. In order to face the current challenges and opportunities impacting community access radio, the KDNK Board is seeking a new station manager — effective immediately. We are grateful for the 11 years that Steve Skinner has given KDNK as station manager. Please know that we undertake the task of finding the station’s next station manager with complete faith in community radio. In addition to this gratitude, we are forever grateful to all of the volunteer staff and DJs that tirelessly continue to bring programs and information to our community. We, as a Board, welcome any and all questions, comments, and concerns regarding this transition, and please know that any member of the Board is willing to field those interactions without hesitation.  

“Since 1983, KDNK has been providing an essential mission: connecting our community to one another and to the world. With this decision, the KDNK Board believes we are providing the best leadership for that mission to endure. We appreciate all of our DJ’s as well as our staff, and we ask all of the KDNK community to support the station during this transition. “The KDNK Board sees this as an opportunity to re-engage with the community, reach out to new membership, and build a future for community access radio. In the coming months, we will be calling for applications for a new station manager and look forward to the new opportunities that may bring. Contact Board@KDNK.org if there are further questions, comments, or concerns. Thank you.”

Published in The Sopris Sun on December 1, 2016.