A Rice County District Court judge issued a strongly worded order Tuesday regarding the fate of donations to the former WCAL-FM, once an independent public radio station in Northfield, Minn., before St. Olaf College sold it to Minnesota Public Radio (MPR rechristened the station The Current).
Judge Gerald Wolf determined that WCAL was indeed a charitable trust, according to Ruth Sylte, president of the advocacy group Save WCAL. Wolf found that St. Olaf failed to get a court’s approval for the sale, and when donors raised objections, the state Attorney General’s Office failed to act.
Sylte said Save WCAL will make the full order available on its Web site but in the meantime provided this excerpt:
St. Olaf sold WCAL over the objections of a group of donors (hereafter call SaveWCAL) and without first obtaining Court approval. … St. Olaf continues to assert that the donated restricted funds it holds are endowments. However, under the applicable law, these donated restricted funds are actually a trust and St. Olaf is the trustee of the trust. Therefore, St. Olaf will need to comply with the legal requirements to which it is held as the trustee of the funds gifted to it for use by WCAL, regardless of the fact that St. Olaf no longer owns WCAL.
The Minnesota Attorney General is the watchdog of all trusts throughout the state of Minnesota. Deplorably, when St. Olaf made the decision to sell WCAL, no one from the Attorney General’s Office intervened to safeguard the trust. The Attorney General’s Office was notified by SaveWCAL of the pending sale yet they failed to do anything. The undersigned is absolutely mystified as to why the State Attorney General did not become involved in a sale of trust assets valued at $12 million when it is its statutory obligation to do so. Let’s hope this type of activity never happens again. …
Now, the Court is faced with a plethora of issues to unravel in the aftermath of St. Olaf’s unapproved sale of WCAL and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office’s breach of its duties in this case.