Oklahoma nonprofit to dissolve in settlement of OETA court battle

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The embattled fundraising foundation for Oklahoma’s public television network will dissolve itself and turn its over assets to a new nonprofit, ending months of legal wrangling between the two organizations.

The Oklahoma Educational Television Authority announced Thursday that it had reached a “mutually acceptable agreement” with the OETA Foundation, which until early this year had raised money and handled membership work for the network since 1983. The foundation agreed to transfer all funds and assets to Friends of OETA, a fundraising nonprofit that OETA incorporated late last year.

“The agreement between OETA and the foundation ends all litigation between the two entities,” an announcement said.

Internal conflicts between leaders of the two organizations were revealed publicly last December when the foundation asked a judge to define its relationship with OETA, based in Oklahoma City. OETA and the foundation had been arguing for over a year about a new memorandum of understanding and other issues related to programming and financial controls. Court documents revealed conflicts between OETA Executive Director Polly Anderson, hired in 2017, and Daphne Dowdy, president of the foundation since 2014.

The OETA Board voted in January to cut ties with the foundation and establish its own fundraising nonprofit. However, even after that vote, the foundation refused to leave its offices inside OETA headquarters.

Last month, OETA joined the Oklahoma Attorney General in seeking a third party to distribute the foundation’s assets.

The final agreement calls for the foundation to transfer $1.6 million to OETA by noon Friday, according to The Oklahoman. The foundation agreed to transfer the remainder of its cash, more than $40 million, to Friends of OETA by May 15.

Dowdy’s employment will end immediately, The Oklahoman reported. She must vacate her office in OETA headquarters by May 15 and will receive her remaining salary for the year. According to the foundation’s most recent IRS Form 990, Dowdy earned around $150,000 in 2017.

The foundation also employed 16 staffers as of 2017, according to the IRS document. The agreement gives remaining foundation employees a choice of receiving severance pay or opportunities to interview for positions at OETA or the new friends organization.

The OETA Board will seat the full board of OETA Friends at its next board meeting, April 23.

“OETA is pleased that this matter was settled in an amicable way, and we appreciate the work of the foundation, which has raised more than $68 million over the last 30 years for the support of public television in Oklahoma,” said OETA Board Chair Garrett King in the announcement.

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