WJFF manager resigns amid controversy

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Above: Part one of a video of a contentious WJFF board meeting held on March 20. You can see part two below.

A public spat over the management of WJFF, a community public radio station broadcasting at 90.5 FM from Jeffersonville, came to a head Wednesday night when station manager Winston Clark resigned at a station board meeting. 

In March, the Times Herald-Record reported, a simmering dispute over programming between the station's board of directors and a large group of volunteers erupted in outright conflict after a popular program was abruptly pulled off the air.

At a WJFF board meeting last month, several dozen volunteers crowded into the station to demand change in the station's management:

"Don't just ask me for money, ask for my opinion when you're going to change a program," former station manager Christine Ahern said. "You're not listening to us. That's why a lot of us are here."

The target of much of the anger wasn't just the all-volunteer board, but station manager Winston Clark.

One example, said Barbara Gref and others, is that the station hasn't had a full meeting of a Community Advisory Board for years, as mandated by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Instead, moves are made in executive session because they feel "uncomfortable" talking about programs and hosts in public, some of the speakers said.

Gref, a former WJFF board president, lives next door to the station, and owns the small hydroelectric dam on Lake Jeffersonville that powers the station headquarters. Her husband, Kevin Gref, is the host of "Making Waves," a program that was recently scuttled by station management after the program broadcast an expletive on the air. 

Most of Wednesday's WJFF board meeting, at which Clark offered his resignation, was conducted in executive session. Members of the public were allowed in for the end of the meeting, when the board voted to accept Clark's resignation.

The station released Clark's resignation letter online on Thursday:

Dear Dawn [Dorcas, WJFF Board President],

I resign my position as WJFF Station Manager as of 5:00 PM Friday, April 12, 2013.

We can all be very proud of what we have achieved together in my four years at WJFF. WJFF's facilities and equipment have seen major repairs and upgrades, and we have broadened our community outreach, volunteer base and broadcast potential with the opening of a new studio in Honesdale.

Furthermore, WJFF is in the strongest financial position it has ever been, totally ready to face any challenge or opportunity the future may bring.

I want to thank you, and Steve Van Benschoten before you, for your inspiring and vibrant leadership, and WJFF's Board of Trustees for its vision and commitment to the welfare of the station.

I also want to pay special tribute to WJFF's remarkable volunteers for their continuing devotion, artistry, and hard work.

I am confident that WJFF's best days lie ahead.

Sincerely, Winston Clark

Below: Part two of a video of a contentious WJFF board meeting held on March 20.

Bottom: A snippet of audio from the brief public segment of WJFF's board meeting on April 10. In the audio, board member and treasurer Michael Propst can be heard opposing the board's acceptance of Clark's resignation; all other members voted to accept the resignation. Audio taken by Kevin Gref.

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