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Eleven WTVP board members are resigning. Questions remain about new conditional 'influx' of dollars from unnamed donors

WTVP's Board of Directors meets in the station's State Street studios on Jan. 16, 2024.
Tim Shelley
WTVP's Board of Directors meets in the station's State Street studios on Jan. 16, 2024.

Eleven members of WTVP's board of directors are resigning amid mounting public anger over the station's alleged financial mismanagement and multiple investigations.

That includes board chairman Andrew Rand and vice chairman Sid Ruckriegel. During an eight-minute long meeting Tuesday, it was announced MH Equipment CEO John Wieland will become the new board chairman.

The public television station also announced Tuesday it has secured minimum philanthropic commitments of over $1 million over a three-year period. It's not clear who is providing the funds, but there are apparently strings attached in the form of unspecified benchmarks the station must meet to receive the money.

"Our station will receive an influx of money from several donors to restore any shortfall experienced over the last few years," said Wieland. "The only thing we need from our community is to continue to support the station in the manner that you have done historically."

That's a far cry from 2007-2008, when the station launched a "Save Our Station" campaign imploring public pledges to stave off a bank foreclosure.

A station press release said more details will be announced "at the appropriate time."

The station's board of directors laid off nine employees, cut $1.5 million from its $5 million budget, and ended the publication of Peoria magazine after WTVP's financial crisis was publicly revealed.

Wieland praised the actions of the board over the past few months, in the wake of "questionable, improper, or unauthorized spending" attributed to former WTVP president and CEO Lesley Matuszak and former director of finance and human resources Lin McLaughlin. Matuszak took her own life a day after resigning from the station last September.

"Chairman Rand and the board decided there needed to be a pivot," said Wieland. "The board negotiated a path forward that not only will put WTVP back on solid financial footing, but would also provide the community with a refreshed board. This would not have happened without this board."

Becky Doubleday, a former WTVP employee and co-chair of the new "Friends of 47" group formed to advocate for a full board resignation at the station, said the announcement Tuesday didn't satisfy their desire for a transparent change in leadership.

"We don't know anything about the new members coming on board or the new board chair; Mr. Wieland apparently," she said.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is holding up a Community Service Grant to the station until certain questions about the station's financial affairs are settled. In years' past, the grant has made up nearly a quarter of WTVP's overall annual funding. Wieland said he's confident that grant funding will come through soon after months of talks with the taxpayer-funded CPB and the CEO of PBS. He said the station plans to submit a new renewal request.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting's inspector general, Peoria Police Department, and Illinois Attorney General's Office's Charitable Trust Bureau are among the agencies still actively investigating WTVP's finances.

Board members resigning effective Feb. 13 include Wayne Cannon, Dr. John Day, Monica Hendrickson, Rand, Ruckriegel, Amanda Campbell, Stephen Morris, Stephen Shipley, Jerry Herbstreith, Ashley Spain, and Sally Snyder.

Current members ostensibly staying on board include Kim Armstrong, Alex Crowley, Dawn Dinh, Helen Barrick, and Andrew Chambers. Jessica Ford is also still listed as a board member on WTVP's web site, but she tells WCBU she resigned from the board last October.

Barrick, a retired principal at auditing firm CliftonLarsenAllen, serves as the board's treasurer. Armstrong, the vice president of market and institutional Advancement at Illinois Central College, was named to WTVP's executive committee last month to help frame messaging and "manage claims" against the station or its officers.

The station statement said the resignations are in part meant to increase opportunities for volunteer board members.

In addition to Wieland, new members joining include Dr. Andy Chiou; Pastor Martin Johnson; Daysha Warr; Dan Pearson; Galesburg City Council member Heather Accera; state Sen. Win Stoller, R-Germantown Hills; and Rick Lavender.

The station's board says they intend to recruit more board members. Wieland said the new board will complete the search for a new CEO to replace Matuszak, and make "slight changes" to the board's bylaws based on an attorney's recommendations.

Editor's notes: Becky Doubleday is a member of the WCBU Community Advisory Board, which does not have input into the station's editorial decisions. WCBU is not affiliated with WTVP in any way.

Updated: January 17, 2024 at 7:32 AM CST
This article was updated to note Jessica Ford's resignation from the board in October.
Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.