The Ottumwa Courier

April 16, 2014

Iowa Public Radio seeks more from universities

RYAN J. FOLEY
Associated Press

---- — IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Public Radio is asking for additional funding from the state's three public universities, a departure from a plan to become financially independent of them, according to a proposal released Tuesday.

IPR is asking the Iowa Board of Regents, which oversees the schools, to approve $945,000 in funding for the budget year that begins July 1. The regents will consider approving the request at a meeting next week.

The funding requested would be $236,000 more than what IPR was expected to receive under a plan approved in 2011 to phase out its $1.2 million regents' subsidy by mid-2016.

IPR has requested the additional support because its strategy to increase large donations from private donors was interrupted by the messy departure last year of its CEO, Mary Grace Herrington, and months of interim leadership that ensued. The extra funding would give new executive director Myrna Johnson, who started in January after a nationwide search, and the board of directors time "to launch a large donor effort and to update the strategic plan" to develop a sustainable funding model, the plan says.

IPR's board fired Herrington in February 2013 after employees raised concerns about her management style. The board then paid her a $197,000 legal settlement after she accused its members of violating the law by speaking publicly about confidential personnel matters.

The board also acknowledged last year that it violated the open meetings law by having a closed session in December 2012 to discuss Herrington's performance, and another closed session in February 2013 at which she was fired. Under a settlement, IPR agreed to run public service announcements about the state's new public information board and pay $36,000 in legal fees for Michael Gartner, the former Board of Regents president who brought the open meetings lawsuits.

The regents created Iowa Public Radio in 2004 to manage operations at the statewide network of AM and FM stations licensed to Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa. Programming includes a mix of news and music, and it is governed by a board of four community representatives appointed by the regents' president and three university officials appointed by the school presidents.

A report from its external auditor released Wednesday showed IPR reported operating expenses of $4.7 million and revenue of $4 million, an operating loss of $682,000, in the budget year that ended June 30, 2013.

IPR intends to use $500,000 in reserves to cover costs in the current budget year, and plans to "spend conservatively" next year and find savings to keep costs down, the proposal says.

Sheila Koppin, a spokeswoman for the regents, said it's unclear how members will respond to the request. She said the main reason for IPR's need is the "lack of an executive director, which impacted their fundraising."