The Battle Over the List

The fight that could determine KXCI's future goes to the courts.

Among KXCI'S growing list of disenchanted and dissident members is William J. Risner, a low-key Tucson lawyer who has worked, with frequent success, to right wrongs.

A member of KXCI's original board of directors and a member of the community radio station for the last 10 years, Risner is battling to reverse KXCI 91.3 FM's increasingly insular board that has served as an effective buffer for the controversial general manager Tony Ford and his administration's policies.

Ford and KXCI management angered station DJs and volunteers last fall with the introduction of volunteer agreements that severely chopped the limited rights of those who put on shows or work at the station. Those who didn't sign got bounced. Some who did sign got bounced under provisions that allowed Ford's team to take such action without providing a reason.

Several popular shows, including Celtic Crosscurrents, Jim's Joke Joint and Beat Street, were yanked. That touched off protests, chiefly from Tucson's Irish Republicans, which call for board reform.

Electoral reform would force KCXI to return to a system in which members of the board were elected rather than appointed. Fourteen members are now appointed by the board while only six are elected by KXCI members.

Ford, board members and the station's lawyer are blocking Risner's effort to get the names of members in preparation for a showdown between angry members and underwriters scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20.

After more than a month of what he calls "stonewalling," Risner said he waited to "celebrate Abraham Lincoln's birthday" and then instructed his lawyer, Edward Moomjian II, to file a suit in Superior Court to win release of the list.

Valentine's Day seemed appropriate, Risner thought.

Bylaws for KXCI's nonprofit parent, The Foundation for Creative Broadcasting, Inc., allow for members to vote to recall board members.

Risner sought the list on Jan. 13 via registered mail which, he says, Ford "intentionally" failed to accept. Risner switched to the fax machine on Jan. 30, and although his machine confirmed delivery, Ford and KXCI again did not respond.

KXCI turned to Bradley Miller, its lawyer with the pricey firm Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally. Miller erected two roadblocks, including a Feb. 6 letter in which he strayed off Risner's request. Miller misconstrued Risner's request as one seeking the list of KXCI donors.

It sparked a memorable response.

"I received your bizarre letter ... " Risner told Miller in a return fax, "only moments ago ... the word 'donor' or 'donors' does not appear in my requests."

What Risner didn't realize is that he also was about to get unsolicited Continuing Legal Education credit.

"As you may also be aware," Miller lectured, "federal law governing stations involved with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, like KXCI, does not permit the station to make donor names or identifying information available."

In court papers, Moomjian reiterated what Risner attempted to explain to Miller: Federal law does not prohibit the release of names of members of KXCI and the Foundation for Creative Broadcasting.

Moreover, Risner is not a third party, an outsider seeking to solicit members, but a member of KXCI and its parent.

A judge will now decide whether Risner gets the list. If he scores, he also is likely to score the cost of having to "go retail" for a lawyer of his own.

It is a point that Risner has tried to make with the KXCI team that, despite a reportedly successful winter fund drive, is in constant financial struggle.

Risner said KXCI leaders are "irresponsibly" handling KXCI assets by forcing him to go to court and equally "irresponsible" for the station to use hard-earned contributions "to protect the political position of Anthony Ford."

KXCI "tried several options," Ford said, to satisfy Risner's desires to communicate with members.

No solution could be found to meet both Risner's needs and what Ford said was the need to protect the members' privacy.

"All of our members are donors," Ford said.

The face-off on Feb. 20 will take place at 7 p.m. at Amory Park Senior Center, 220 S. Fifth Ave.

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