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CPB inspector general's audit of WTVP's grant spending over the past 3 years to start in March

WTVP's studios are located in downtown Peoria.
Tim Shelley
WTVP's studios are located in downtown Peoria.

Peoria's public television station must await the completion of an independent audit by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's inspector general before a decision is made on WTVP's annual funding request.

The publicly-funded CPB withheld WTVP's 2024 Community Service Grant (CSG) after it failed to submit an annual audited financial statement by a December deadline. The station receives several hundred thousand dollars in CSG funds each year.

A CPB spokesperson said WTVP was informed last week an audit will begin in March. The inspector general will probe the station's CPB grant spending from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2023. The CPB said it will only consider releasing the CSG funds after the audit wraps up and WTVP makes any related changes they require. That audit into previous grant spending could take some time.

Lesley Matuszak was president and CEO of the station during the time in question. The station alleges she and former director of finance and human resources Lin McLaughlin approved improper spending that left the station in dire financial straits. The Peoria Police Department and Illinois attorney general's office are investigating those allegations.

It's been a tumultuous several months for WTVP in the aftermath of Matuszak's resignation and suicide last September. The station's board of directors cut $1.5 million from WTVP's budget and laid off nine people. The publication of Peoria magazine was indefinitely suspended. And at last month's board meeting, the resignations of chairman Andrew Rand and 10 other members of the board were abruptly announced as part of the station's self-described "pivot strategy."

New board chairman John Wieland and seven other new board members were introduced at that same meeting with little explanation as to how they were recruited. Their biographies were posted to the station's website the next day, and WTVP has aired a 25-minute interview with Wieland and promotional spots with the new board members branded "WTVP NOW."

That transition was coupled with an announcement the station's immediate fiscal challenges were resolved largely thanks to a $1.2 million commitment from an undisclosed private foundation over the next three years.

Wieland recently told the 21st Show that the only condition or benchmark tied to that money is the station obtaining CPB funding.

WTVP's new chairman said there were some issues between the separation of Peoria magazine advertising revenues and donations to the station. He told the 21st Show that he does expect a clean opinion back when the station's delayed 2023 annual audited financial statement is completed.

The station announced five new board members on Monday. They include attorney Emily Galligan, former WTVP president and CEO Chet Tomcyzk, Graham Health System executive Bob Senneff, medical student and Miss Illinois 2023 Jessica Tilton, and Metamora Township High School teacher Kevin Hicks.

WTVP also on Monday announced the launch of a new locally-produced environmental program, Eco Watch. The half-hour long show is funded by the Backlund Charitable Trust and will air quarterly.

The WTVP board of directors next meets Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the WTVP studios at 101 State St. in Peoria. The meetings are open to the public.

WTVP serves the Peoria, Bloomington, and Galesburg areas with PBS and local programming.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.