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KDHX volunteers attempt to replace board members in latest conflict with station leaders

KDHX, an independent and listener-supported radio station, is photographed on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Midtown St. Louis.
Tristen Rouse
/
St. Louis Public Radio
The latest conflict between station volunteers and its board follows months of criticism of station leaders.

Volunteers at community radio station KDHX voted on Tuesday evening to remove two board members and elect three new people to the board.

Board President Gary Pierson made a brief appearance to declare that the meeting was not legal and that the votes have no standing.

The back-and-forth over composition of the board is the latest conflict between station leaders and a group of DJs and other station volunteers, known as associate members, who want more say over how the station is run.

In a meeting that was open only to associate members and press, attendees voted to remove board members Frank Flotron and Ray Finney, two of the three who are designated as member representatives.

Associate members also voted to seat Kip Loui, Darian Wigfall and Courtney Dowdall on the board.

'Heartbroken' at KDHX
STLPR's Jeremy D. Goodwin and former KDHX DJ Ital K join "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss the latest updates on the controversy.

Station bylaws allow for up to three board members to represent the interests of the membership and a total of 15 board members. The KDHX board currently has eight members.

It is unclear what immediate effect Tuesday night’s votes will have.

“I don’t expect to be seated on the board. What I expect to see happen from here is to give the folks who are organizing a grounds for legal action,” said Wigfall.

Wigfall, also known as DJ Whiz, is a longtime figure on the city’s music scene who formerly ran the FarFetched music label. He previously worked as a KDHX employee but resigned, claiming racism in the organization. His complaints were among those that later came to light with an anonymous letter delivered to the station board in 2019.

The board denied those allegations, including specific ones targeting Executive Director Kelly Wells. Pierson said the recent round of DJ dismissals was necessary because some volunteers were not committed to an enhanced focus on diversity, equity and inclusion following the 2019 accusations. Some DJs have since claimed the station board is using DEI language as a smokescreen to obscure its true intent: ridding the station of people who have repeatedly criticized management.

Pierson attended the start of Tuesday’s meeting. The meeting chair cut him off after she recognized him to ask a question and he began stating his grounds for considering the meeting improper.

“A few disgruntled former volunteers held a gathering to air their grievances and invited the press,” Pierson said afterward, “but excluded associate members, employees, attorneys and board members of the corporation. Any votes taken have no legal effect.”

He said the station’s attorney attempted to attend but was not allowed in. Any special meeting to elect board members must be conducted by the board president, he said.

The KDHX board of directors dismissed 10 DJs last week and told another 12 they would have to complete a mediation process with station leadership in order to keep their shows. The dismissals came after four other DJs were taken off the air earlier in the year and months of public complaints from volunteers about station leadership.

Station leaders said the DJs had harmed KDHX’s reputation, and Pierson added that the dismissals were necessary to shed station volunteers who were not committed to ongoing efforts to make the station more diverse and inclusive.

The associate members who met Tuesday maintain that they followed proper form in their effort to elect their representatives to the board.

“We are going to present the results at the next board meeting and we would like these people seated. Hopefully they will recognize that at a negotiating table and not in the courtroom,” said Christopher Schwarz, an attorney and station volunteer. Schwarz represented previously dismissed DJ Andrea “Drea” Stein in a court hearing last week, seeking an injunction to undo her dismissal. A judge denied the request.

Days later, Schwarz was among the 10 additional DJs the board dismissed.

Schwarz said volunteers are considering filing a lawsuit typically filed on behalf of shareholders or stockholders against a corporate board to compel KDHX to recognize Tuesday’s votes.

Jeremy is the arts & culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.