CPB Fires Acting Inspector General
Action on Pacifica Halted Again

by Jeff Blankfort

I learned last weekend from Per Fagereng of the Portland Free Press that Mike Donovan, the Acting Inspector General of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting had just been fired from the CPB, at the time that he was about to release his report on Pacifica's violations of federal broadcasting laws and CPB guidelines.

By way of background, Pacifica receives approximately $1.5 million annually from the CPB which obliges Pacifica, as it does all recipients of federal broadcasting funds, to obey certain laws such as opening its board and committee meetings to the public, something that Pacifica has consistently refused to do since Pat Scott was appointed its CEO.

From several conversations that I had with Donovan, I had good reason to anticipate that his report would be critical of the Pacifica board, particularly its use of "retreats" as a cover for holding all but an hour of each of the last four board meetings behind closed doors and for its decision last summer to hold future meetings of its financial committee in executive session. (For a fifth closed meeting near Houston in Oct. 95, the one that set off the inquiry, they had not yet formulated a good excuse).

The stated reason for Donovan's firing is that a new Inspector General has been hired and that Donovan's position as deputy had been eliminated. Whether or not Donovan's report on Pacifica will be made public we are trying to find out.

I was informed this morning by the secretary to the President of the CPB, who said she is well aware of our complaint, that the CPB will be issuing a press release either Wednesday or Thursday on the hiring of the new IG and the departure of Donovan and that a copy of that release will be sent to TBK by mail and fax (and posted here).

Donovan's firing is the latest in a strange series of coincidences which has seen three persons from the office of the Inspector General of the CPB lose their job after initiating an investigation of Pacifica's violations of public broadcasting law.

The first, you will recall, was Brian McConville, an investigator from the CPB who had seen an article in the public broadcasting magazine Current that reported on our complaint with Pacifica for having held all but an hour of its Oct. 95 meeting near Houston in executive session.

On the basis of that article, which, ironically, had been prompted by a press release sent to Current by Pacifica CEO Pat Scott, accusing Pacifica's critics of all sorts of calumnies, McConville began an inquiry into what had happened in Houston.

Seventeen days later, after calls to his boss, Inspector General Lester Latney, by Pacifica's lawyer and Scott herself, McConville was told by Latney that he was fired and to clear out his desk immediately. According to McConville, Latney was not interested in having him make a report on what he had learned about the Houston meeting from conversations with me and others.

When I called Latney to find out about the firing, he insisted then and in every subsequent conversation that I had with him (even raising the issue himself) that McConville's departure had nothing to do with the Pacifica investigation.

Latney himself then took over the inquiry, which seemed to drag along without any result. When attempting last summer to find out how he was progressing, I learned that Latney was on medical leave after suffering a stroke. Strangely enough, I was told, he was still in charge of the Pacifica investigation.

Latney did not recover and was eventually terminated by the CPB and the investigation was taken on by the Acting Inspector General, Donovan. Donovan had previously served as Deputy IG and had been McConville's immediate superior at the time he was fired, although he was not apparently consulted and had learned of the firing after the fact.

Donovan appeared to be taking the inquiry seriously and from questions he asked during several conversations, it was clear that he had found serious questions concerning Pacifica's behavior. Shortly before Christmas, he told me that he hoped to have his report completed by the end of January of this year, before the new funding cycle. One of the things he had to do first, he said, was to pay a visit to Pacifica, i.e., Pat Scott, to get her side of the story.

At the end of January, when I checked with him again and at his request, I faxed him the schedule from the Houston board meeting, which seemed to perplex him because once again, Pacifica had gone into "retreat" in its Saturday session. One might consider this action by the Pacifica board as an indication that it believed it had nothing to worry about concerning Donovan or his report.

At the conclusion of our conversation, he told me that his report would be out by mid-February. Instead of the report, it turns out that he was out by mid-February. Apparently Pacifica was right.

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