WTVP board members resign in wake of financial improprieties

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WTVP's headquarters in Peoria, Ill.

Officials have announced a significant reshuffling of the board of directors at WTVP in Peoria, Ill., following the death of former CEO Lesley Matuszak last year and multiple investigations into financial improprieties at the station.

Former Board Chair Andrew Rand and Vice Chair Sid Ruckriegel resigned effective immediately, according to a Tuesday news release. Nine other board members’ resignations will take effect Feb. 13: Wayne Cannon, Dr. John Day, Monica Hendrickson, Amanda Campbell, Stephen Morris, Stephen Shipley, Jerry Herbstreith, Sally Snyder and Ashley Spain.

The board has since elected eight new board members, including new Board Chair John Wieland, CEO of MH Equipment. Other new board members include Republican State Sen. Win Stoller, who is also CEO of Widmer Interiors, and Dr. Andy Chiou, CEO of Illinois Surgical Specialists and medical director for the Peoria Vein Center.

More board members’ jobs and biographies were announced in a separate news release Wednesday: Heather Acerra, a benefits consultant for Cottingham & Butler and co-owner of Lux Blox; Rick Lavender, retired AT&T technician and contractor; Martin Johnson, senior pastor of New Beginnings Ministries of Peoria; Dan Pearson, former sports anchor for KWQC in Davenport, Iowa; and Daysha Warr, a claims specialist for State Farm Insurance.

WTVP cut its budget by $1.5 million last year and subsequently laid off nine employees after Matuszak’s death in September, which a local coroner has declared a suicide. The station is under criminal investigations led by local police and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, according to Peoria public radio station WCBU.

CPB announced late last year that it is withholding WTVP’s Community Service Grant pending an investigation. A CBS affiliate reported that the station has filed a claim with its insurance company seeking lost money. WTVP officials have named Matuszak and former finance and human resources director Lin McLaughlin as employees who may have approved “improper, unauthorized, or questionable” spending.

Late last year, several members of the public called for board members to resign. They included a retired reporter for the Peoria Journal Star and leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Peoria chapter.

In remarks to the board Tuesday, former Board Chair Rand said he is “confident that WTVP will continue to be the premier source for education, scientific, entertainment, and cultural content.”

Board Chair Wieland noted that WTVP’s future “was in serious doubt” going into the meeting, but “that doubt is removed thanks to Chairman Rand and the board. Unfortunately, misuse of funds can happen to any organization and WTVP was no exception. Once the misuse was identified Chairman Rand and board took the appropriate steps, but much of the damage had been done. In the best interest of our communities and WTVP Chairman Rand and the board decided there needed to be a pivot.”

Wieland said the board will work with CPB in an attempt to restore CSG funding. “Going forward, the board will complete the search for a new CEO, make some minor changes to the bylaws, that our attorneys feel will be beneficial, and continue to provide outstanding local and national content,” Wieland said.

WTVP’s release also said that the station has secured philanthropic commitments of more than $1 million, which will be available for the next three years if WTVP meets certain benchmarks.

Wieland told viewers and supporters of WTVP that it is “not asking people to give more than you have previously done, just, please, return to the faithful support that station has enjoyed over the years.”

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