OETA Board votes to form new fundraising organization

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Oklahoma’s public television network cut ties with its fundraising foundation in a unanimous board vote Tuesday night.

The nine-member Oklahoma Educational Television Authority Board of Directors said in a statement Wednesday that it will immediately form a new nonprofit to handle “receiving, investing and expending” donations to the network based in Oklahoma City.

The OETA Foundation, established in 1982, has raised more than $67 million for the network. However, “the once-cooperative and courteous relationship between OETA and the OETA Foundation Inc. has deteriorated dramatically,” the board statement said.

The foundation fired the first legal salvo in December, asking the District Court for a declaratory judgment to define its relationship with OETA. The network responded earlier this month in documents that revealed details of the problems that had been intensifying since the arrival of foundation President Daphne Dowdy in 2014.

Following the first court filing, the dispute escalated. OETA accused the foundation of “changing locks, attempting to make alterations to OETA’s building, denying access to part of OETA’s building, interfering with day to day operations and attempting to hack OETA’s computer network.”

In a letter released Tuesday, the OETA board said the foundation had undertaken “a strategic public disinformation campaign aimed at undermining OETA in the hearts and minds of donors, citizens and public officials.”

OETA Board Chair Garrett King said in a statement that board members “took no joy in being forced” to take action against the foundation’s “reckless and damaging behavior.”

Meanwhile, the foundation filed a response Monday to OETA’s motion to dismiss the foundation’s original petition. The foundation, it said, “seeks freedom from the authority’s management errors and deficiencies and the authority’s attacks on the foundation’s ability to administer the foundation’s assets and efforts to fulfill its mission.”

Read OETA’s letter to the foundation board:

Read the foundation’s response to OETA’s motion to dismiss its petition:

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