The KOTO Wars | A Resignation, a Separation and an Election

08/21/14 | By | 384 More

TELLURIDE – At the end of a heated three-hour meeting of the KOTO-San Miguel Education Fund Board of Directors Tuesday night, four things were clear.

Boardmember Ashley Boling had resigned.

The board had rejected Boling’s suggestion that San Miguel County Clerk and Recorder Kathleen Erie replace him for the slightly more than two months between now and a pending November board election.

Board Chair Ray Farnsworth and Treasurer Robert Allen had not responded to Aura Zink Jones’ petition, signed by 33 KOTO “members” – persons who have variously worked as DJs or volunteers or donated in the last year – for their resignation.

And the board held fast to its decision to not join with The Ride Festival in an application to the Telluride Commission for Community Assistance, Arts and Special Events for a 2015 midsummer weekend slot for the fourth edition of the festival, originally formed by KOTO as a fundraiser.

But these decisions were perhaps less notable than more accusations and counter-accusations against the board and KOTO Executive Director Dina Coates Koebler, who came onboard in January 2013, of everything from fiscal irresponsibility to Zink Jones’s accusation that “the end game of the executive director and this board must be to want underwriting,” a fraught word for many KOTO stalwarts, for whom the absence of underwriting, or advertising, is a core value.

After spending “20 or 30 hours with KOTO financial statements,” Janet Humphries, whose husband Mark Izard is a KOTO boardmember, pronounced them “alarming.

“KOTO stumbles from month to month, barely making payroll,” said Humphries, who has logged 27 years as a trial lawyer.

But former KOTO DJ Steve Gumble, promoter of the mid-September Telluride Blues and Brews Festival, countered, saying, “There’s a lot of armchair accounting going on here,” a sentiment echoed by Lina Anderson, an accountant, who observed that “a lot of nonprofits in this country have gone under” since the start of the Great Recession, with the drying up of grants and donations.

Longtime KOTO DJ Norman Squier, whose wife, Janice Zink, was until early this year Special Events Director at KOTO, criticized the dominant “my way or the highway attitude” that has characterized KOTO politics even prior to his wife’s abrupt departure from the station in January.

“I am deeply saddened,” said longtime DJ Ingrid Lundahl, of the acrimony. As to the station’s financial woes, she said, “I have two words for you: ‘Beer booth,’” referring to the station’s loss last year of its three-decade revenue stream from the Telluride Bluegrass Festival beer booth, which in 2012 alone gave KOTO $50,000. The loss of Bluegrass beer booth proceeds is widely attributed to KOTO’s deepening involvement, in recent years, in two summer music festivals – the now-defunct Yankee Doodle Doo-dah and the three-year-old Ride, both organized (and benefiting from KOTO volunteers) by Zink, and thus considered, by some for-profit music organizers, unfair competition.

As the meeting wound down, Farnsworth addressed board critics, saying that volunteering for KOTO and SMEF “has been a labor of love for me. I have no hidden agenda.

“I’m not having a good time here,” he said, criticizing “all the bullying and character assassination” being hurled at the KOTO board and staff. He went on to characterize much of the public comment at the meeting’s outset as “nasty,” full of “innuendo and meanness” and coming from persons “hiding behind personal agendas.”

Of KOTO’s much-vaunted $40,000 debt, Farnsworth said, “We’re not getting sued by anyone,” and plans are in place to pay vendors.

In response to Humphries’ charges that Koebler has not lived up to her promise to submit grant applications, the tired-looking executive director responded that she has won two grants and submitted four others in her 20 months on the job. As to charges that curtailing KOTO special events was a mistake, Farnsworth said, “Special events made a lot of money and lost a lot of money.”

Bottom line, he said, of the beleaguered KOTO board and staffers, is this: “We’re good people. We’re working hard.”

Confiding he has considered resigning multiple times in recent months, Izard echoed Farnsworth’s efforts at conciliation.

“We have made a lot of mistakes,” he said, referring to the larger KOTO community, “and we can’t afford to make any more. We’re a train off the track heading through the forest,” he said, but not because of anything done intentionally.

That said, Izard announced that, although his term is not up, “I am going to run for reelection in November, and I highly recommend that everyone on this board” do the same.

He then announced he had just secured, via text messaging, a venue for the KOTO Halloween Party, which lost its slot on this year’s schedule. For a second year, it will now take place – at no cost to KOTO, and using no KOTO volunteers – at Fly Me to the Moon Saloon.


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