Lord Have Mercy

More static at community radio station KXCI-FM.

A yearlong drive to boost elected representation on the board of embattled KXCI Community Radio is, in the eyes of station management, nothing more than a hostile, stealthy takeover by God.

KXCI brass and the board of the FM station's non-profit parent, the Foundation for Creative Broadcasting, have lost court skirmishes against a group of dissident members who have moved to change bylaws to fill a majority of board seat through election. Control of the board has rested with a self-appointed majority.

As the Democracy Initiative has accelerated its push to collect signatures from KXCI members to force an election on bylaw changes, KXCI has countered with a letter that questions the insurgents' motives.

The Democracy Initiative "is a dangerous proposal that harms our community radio station," the new counter-attack states.

"Religious broadcasters have offered to buy our frequency for as much as $4.5 million. We're not for sale! But if the proposed bylaw changes take effect, creating more elected seats, special interest groups could take control of the station for as little as $30,000."

"There is no way in hell that it will be sold" for religious broadcasting, KXCI Board President Tom Spendiarian said in an interview shortly after he emphasized that he was not the author.

Rather, Spendiarian said, the unsigned KXCI letter was the work of Randy Peterson, KXCI's interim general manager.

Peterson did not return a call Monday from The Weekly.

But even Spendiarian had to concede that the goal of the Democracy Initiative and its leaders, Scott Egan, John Murphy and Bill Risner, was hardly to usher in any old-time religious broadcasting.

Peterson's letter, Egan said, was one wild spin, but not one that will deter the Democracy Initiative from sending out a new communique seeking a final round of signatures that will put the elected-majority issue to a vote.

Though he pinned the windy letter on Peterson, Spendiarian agrees and utters the same positions for resisting a 12-member board that includes seven elected members.

The board, Spendiarian and the letter state, needs the "flexibility" to pick and choose colleagues with specific areas of expertise such as law, finance, or even architecture. Spendiarian is an architect.

Having a board majority elected, Peterson wrote, "will hurt KXCI, and might destroy the station we all love."

Peterson and his predecessor, Tony Ford, along with Spendiarian's board, have repeatedly lost battles with the Democracy Initiative, including a costly court case in which Risner won the right to have KXCI membership lists. KXCI ended up on the hook for Risner's attorney fees in that case.

And Peterson's letter came after KXCI made overtures for less contentious discussions. Egan was invited to the Nov. 17 board meeting to go over his group's longstanding demands for more representative board membership. KXCI leadership sought to get Egan to hold back on his then-pending letter to membership.

But the board, also pressed to find a permanent general manager, abruptly went behind closed doors for an executive session. When it reconvened in open session, the board was saved by the bell--or the nightly, and completely unsurprising 8:30 closing of the Armory Park Center--and there was no time for bylaw negotiation.

In the war for the votes of members, the Democracy Initiative letter went out and Peterson, in a Nov. 19 letter to Egan, said he, Spendiarian and another KXCI board member would meet with him, Murphy and Risner during the first week of December. KXCI shelved the sit-down but board member Jim Lipson reached out to Murphy. This time, the ground covered included a change in board composition to a simple, one-person majority for elected members.

"Now everything is in the toilet," Egan said.

And a new letter from the insurgent group is going out.

Egan once hosted and served as a guest host for Murphy's popular Celtic Crosscurrents show that was among the shows summarily canceled by Ford's regime last year.

Murphy was given scant notice. His mic was shut off not because of any on-air problem emanating from the show that mixed music, history, and Irish Republicanism. Murphy, in a private e-mail, smacked the Mormon religion--the faith of KXCI program director Roger Greer.

"We thought they wanted to deal with us," Egan said. "We're not out to slit their throats or kick them off the board. I was cautiously optimistic. Jim Swope said not to trust them."

Swope's popular Joke Joint show also was yanked without explanation a year ago.

The latest dust-up comes as Spendiarian's board is trying to choose a new general manager. KXCI officials say 30 applied. That list was chopped to nine; seven chose to remain in the running. Peterson withdrew his candidacy. Now there are three finalists who have been invited to separate screenings by station volunteers and the paid staff. The board will interview the three on Saturday. And the finalists, whom Spendiarian declined to name, have been asked to mill about at upcoming KXCI open house events.

Egan complained that members are not allowed to meet the prospective general managers.

Spendiarian also promises more outreach, as KXCI celebrates its 20th anniversary, via a series of town hall meetings that will include mediator. "So nobody will be bullied," Spendiarian said.

To Egan, that's "all blah, blah, blah. It's been more than a year and none of the programmer issues have been dealt with."