To probe Tomlinson CPB activities, reformers look to his other federal role

CPB isn’t covered by the Freedom of Information Act, so nonprofits probing Ken Tomlinson’s period as chairman continue trying to use FOIA to spring CPB-related documents from the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a U.S. panel Tomlinson still chairs. Common Cause, Center for Digital Democracy and Free Press yesterday appealed [PDF] BBG’s rejection of their Nov. 22 FOIA request. Their lawyer, David L. Sobel, requested e-mails, phone logs and other records relating to Tomlinson’s CPB work, particularly communications with the White House. BBG official Martha Diaz-Ortiz told them in January that the documents would be “personal records” beyond FOIA’s reach.

Citizen groups file FOIA request for CPB documents

Citing the Freedom of Information Act, three citizen watchdog groups petitioned CPB President Pat Harrison Nov. 21, 2005, to release certain documents mentioned in the CPB inspector general’s Nov. 15 report on the Tomlinson affair. Included are materials given privately by the IG to the CPB Board and members of Congress, minutes of closed and open CPB Board meetings for three years and communications with the White House and with producers of Tucker Carlson Unfiltered and Journal Editorial Report. Several days earlier the groups had requested similar information without invoking FOIA.

Tomlinson offered $614K severance to fired president

Ken Tomlinson, then CPB chairman, proposed a “very generous” severance package to fire President Kathleen Cox, the organization’s inspector general reported Tuesday (PDF, page 21): three times her total annual compensation. (CPB spokesman Michael Levy told Current the amount was $614,000.) Cox’s attorney said in the report she has not yet received a second installment. Headline added to post, 2012

The ex-chairman’s reply: ‘My actions were open, lawful,’ sincere in intent

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, former CPB chairman, responded to the CPB inspector general’s Nov. 15, 2005, report with this statement, which was published as an appendix to the report. I am disappointed, but not surprised, by the Inspector General’s report. It was apparent early on that Inspector General Kenneth A. Konz would opt for politics over good judgment. Mr. Konz, in direct violation of his Code of Ethics, told Bloomberg News that his report would be critical of me six weeks before he released his report to the CPB Board.

CPB Inspector General’s recommendations after the Tomlinson episode

Excerpted from Inspector General Kenneth Konz’s full 67-page report (PDF), Nov. 15, 2005. We recommend that the Board of Directors take the following actions to improve CPB’s governance processes. 1) Revise CPB’s By-Laws to:

a) Clarify the Board of Directors’ and President/CEO’s roles and responsibilities (e.g., Board of Directors are responsible for development and oversight of high level public policy issues and CEO is responsible for managing professional staff in implementing policy). b) Develop Board of Director processes to investigate and discipline Board members when they are found to violate the CPB By-Laws, Directors Code of Ethics, CPB’s operating policies and procedures, and the Public Broadcasting Act.

Executive summary of CPB inspector general’s report on the Tomlinson affair

See also PDF of the complete report and Current coverage. Review of Alleged Actions Violating the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, as Amended
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Office of Inspector General, has conducted a review of alleged violations of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, as amended. We found evidence that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) former Chairman violated statutory provisions and the Director’s Code of Ethics by dealing directly with one of the creators of a new public affairs program during negotiations with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the CPB over creating the show. Our review also found evidence that suggests “political tests” were a major criteria used by the former Chairman in recruiting a President/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for CPB, which violated statutory prohibitions against such practices. Our review of the hiring of a consultant to review program content for objectivity and balance showed that such reviews were consistent with Section 19(2)(B) of the Public Telecommunications Act of 1992, however problems occurred when the former Chairman initiated such actions without informing the Board and signed the contract without Board authorization.

CPB Board reaction to Tomlinson affair, November 2005

Below are the chair’s speech and several resolutions passed by the CPB Board Nov. 15, 2005, responding to the CPB inspector general’s report on the Tomlinson Affair. The board unanimously created a Corporate Governance and Executive Compensation committees, as recommended by the inspector general and a Special Committee “to enhance awareness and appreciation of public broadcasting’s achievements and potential for future service.” It also renewed and appointed members of its Finance and Audit Committee. Statement by Cheryl Halpern, CPB Board chair

CPB Board of Directors meeting, Washington, D.C., Nov.

Public radio (unofficially) asks CPB to serve as political firewall, May 2005

Public radio station representatives endorsed this resolution by voice vote during NPR’s annual Members Meeting of stations, May 3, 2005. The meeting lacked the quorum necessary to adopt a proposed official resolution. The proposal, offered by Tim Emmons, g.m. of Northern Public Radio in DeKalb, Ill., responded to recent news coverage about CPB activities promoting conservative programming on public TV. Whereas it is the statutory and historical role of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to serve as a firewall between partisan politics and public broadcasting; and

Whereas the Public Broadcasting Act specifically directs CPB to act “in ways that will most effectively assure the maximum freedom of the public telecommunications entities and systems from interference with, or control of, program content or other activities”; and

Whereas CPB has in the past respected the First Amendment rights of broadcasters and deferred to the professional judgments of journalists; and

Whereas the Public Broadcasting Act requires CPB to distribute program funds by grant rather than by contract specifically to limit CPB interference in the editorial decision-making process of public broadcasting program producers and stations; and

Whereas the Public Broadcasting Act requires CPB to create and annually update a plan for the development of public telecommunications services and consult with interested parties when so doing; and

Whereas CPB has recently dismissed its President and CEO under uncertain conditions; and

Whereas the CPB board recently appointed two ombudsmen without consulting with the public broadcasting system, raising legitimate concerns of an institutionalized process for potential interference in content, and

Whereas, such a process within a funding agency is fundamentally inconsistent with the principles of ombudsmen in reference to news organizations;

It is therefore resolved that:

CPB should follow statutory requirements and do nothing to diminish the firewall between the Federal funds appropriated by the Congress and the public broadcast programming it funds; and
CPB should follow statutory requirements and refrain from interfering in constitutionally protected content decisions; and
CPB should follow statutory requirements and, before making changes in funding priorities, should engage in a system-wide consultation about the priorities of public radio and defer to the reasonable and legitimate choices of broadcast professionals to build services of value within the local communities they serve.