King departs Vermont Public Television after months of turmoil

By Dru Sefton

Vermont Public Television and its president, John King, “parted ways” Wednesday, according to a statement from the VPT Board.

King’s departure follows months of tumult at the Colchester-based community licensee over his relationship with the board.

King

King

“VPT is very grateful for John King’s many years of service to VPT and the public television industry,” said Pam Mackenzie, VPT board chair, in the statement.  “We wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”

King declined comment to Current. He joined VPT in 1987 as chief financial officer and rose to president in 1998.

Charlie Smith, a Vermont business consultant and former state executive, took over Wednesday as interim president and c.e.o. for the next six months. Mackenzie said Smith was selected from among 15 candidates suggested by board members.

In an interview with Current, Mackenzie declined to characterize King’s departure as either a resignation or termination. The VPT Board is “absolutely, positively laser-focused on the future. We believe this is a good opportunity to move the organization forward, and that’s where our focus is.”

She also declined to pinpoint whether the board had particular problems with how King ran the station. The board’s relationship to the station “has always been at a policy level and not at an operational level,” she said.

A rift between King and the governing body was exposed late last year. An anonymous letter to VPT and CPB in December 2013 alleged more than 20 violations of CPB’s open-meetings requirements going back to 2011. After an internal investigation, the VPT Board revealed that all the closed meetings had concerned personnel issues; the only employee the board oversees is King.

Pending the outcome of an investigation into the open-meetings violations by CPB, the station temporarily lost access to $667,000 of its 2014 Community Service Grant. Two directors of the 16-member governing body resigned, citing disagreement with board leadership over the closed meetings. Several staff members signed a letter demanding the resignation of any board members involved in the closed sessions.

In February, following an internal investigation by the board’s audit committee, the body tightened its open-meeting rules and admitted that it erred in not providing explanations for the meeting closures on VPT’s website following each session.

The board’s web page now shows that directors met March 24 and March 31 “in closed session to consider matters relating to individual employees and to obtain confidential advice of counsel.”

Although King no longer works at VPT, he remains on the board of the Public Television Association of Quebec (PTAQ), a friends’ fundraising organization that donates around $600,000 annually to the station, which broadcasts into Canada.

“John remains a board member and CEO of PTAQ until such time as he chooses to step down,” said Jim Wyant, PTAQ Board president.

Wyant was one of the two VPT Board members who resigned.

Questions, comments, tips? sefton@current.org

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