Questions linger at KFAI annual meeting

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There were more questions than answers at KFAI’s Annual Meeting, held December 14. While various committees of the non-profit radio station’s board gave reports — outlining new directions from its strategic plan, updating members about the financial state of the organization, recognizing its volunteers — they were unable to provide any answers to the number one question that everyone has been asking: why did Janis Lane-Ewart, the former Executive Director, leave the organization?

KFAI’s new interim executive director is Suzann Eisenberg, a consultant from a company called Dendros Group, works with organizations to “build mission-driven, values-centered leadership, operations, planning and evaluation,” according to their website. Eisenberg has had many previous interim executive director assignments, at organizations such as the St. Paul Ramsey County Children’s Initiative, Minnesota Museum of American Art, and the Emergency Foodshelf Network. “This is what I do for a living,” she said. “The past is approved, we stand in the present, and the future is open.”

The financial report, given by Jeremy Nichols, was not characterized as dire straits, although the news wasn’t overwhelmingly positive either. He reported that KFAI had $330,000 in cash on hand, $125,000 in reserves, but still was looking at possibly entering the new year with a deficit.

The board’s report on the strategic plan stirred some confusion. Communications Chair Andy Arsham explained the board had created four committees that each focused on a particular aspect. The committees are called the Connect Committee, aimed at expanding the organization, the Convene Committee, aimed at driving innovation, the Catalyze Committee, aimed and growing the organization, and the Strong and Growing Committee, aimed at growing resources. Members of each committee gave brief presentations about what they were focused on, with an overall theme on social media and partnering with organizations. When KFAI members in the audience asked the board to explain further the difference between the committees, the board replied that it was difficult to explain. “There is some overlap between the committees,” Arsham said.

During the question and answer session, members right away asked about Janis Lane-Ewart. One man asked if the former Executive Director had been fired, but President of the Board Chris Dronen replied that unfortunately they could not respond because it was a personnel matter. “It’s a confidential matter we can’t discuss,” he said.

Several other people in the audience pressed on. “Was this a board intervention?” Suzann Eisenberg responded: “I know it’s really hard. It’s just one of those things. We have to maintain privacy.”

Another woman from the audience said, “it’s very disturbing for us.” Others talked about how meaningful their relationships were with the former director. “I was welcomed with open arms by Janis,” said one man.

One person suggested that perhaps KFAI could host her a farewell party, especially since Lane-Ewart herself had organized such an event honoring the Executive Directors that came before her. However, when there was a call for a volunteer to head up such an event, no one raised their hand.


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