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KDHX critics ask court to install new board members at St. Louis station

KDHX’s headquarters on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, in Grand Center.
Brent Jones
/
St. Louis Public Radio
A struggle over composition of the KDHX Board of Directors is the latest dispute between leaders of the community radio station and critics.

A group of unhappy KDHX listeners and former DJs is suing to change the makeup of the community radio station’s Board of Directors.

The lawsuit seeks to compel the station’s board to recognize the action taken in a September volunteer meeting, at which attendees voted to remove two board members and add three new ones. Attorney Andrew J. Scavotto, a former president of the KDHX board, filed the suit in St. Louis Circuit Court this week.

Station board President Gary Pierson attended the meeting only briefly, saying that it was called improperly and that no votes taken would have any legal validity. The lawsuit claims that the vote was valid.

A group of about 60 station DJs and other volunteers voted Sept. 26 to elect Courtney Dowdall, Darian Wigfall and Kip Loui to the board and to remove board members Ray Finney and Franc Flotron.

The KDHX Board of Directors is next scheduled to meet Monday. Wigfall, Dowdall and Loui plan to attend and attempt to be recognized as valid board members.

The battle over composition of the board is the latest phase of an ongoing dispute between station leaders and a group of volunteers, former DJs and listeners.

In May, 45 current and former station volunteers signed a statement of no confidence in Executive Director Kelly Wells. Station leaders have dismissed more than 20 DJs this year, including some who said they were on strike from their programs until previously dismissed DJs are reinstated.

“Those individuals had one interesting thing in common,” the plaintiffs say in the suit, “they all signed the No Confidence Statement, expressing dissent and criticism of management.”

Among 10 DJs fired on Sept. 22 was Christopher Schwarz, an attorney who the previous week represented ousted DJ Drea Stein in her unsuccessful effort to obtain a court order restoring her to the airwaves.

Pierson said the departed DJs were working against the station’s fundraising efforts, insufficiently committed to an enhanced focus on DEI at the station or were otherwise insubordinate. The DJs deny the accusations, and many have said Pierson’s public complaints were the first they had heard of any alleged dispute on DEI grounds.

The lawsuit is baseless, Pierson said in a written statement. “At all times, KDHX has acted in accordance with its bylaws and Missouri non-for-profit law. We are confident that the courts will see this for what it is,” he said. Much of the statement addresses the involvement of attorney Scavotto, whom Pierson accused of using “confidential, privileged information obtained during his tenure about the organization to create this false narrative and target individuals.” Scavotto denied those accusations.

Station critics say that Pierson and Wells are chronically unresponsive to complaints and other feedback on the direction of the station, and that they have stopped allowing any public comment during board meetings.

“If there's change in the leadership or not, I think that we can all agree that the community is not happy with what's going on with the organization,” Wigfall said. “So at the very least we need to open up and listen to them, and not shut them out continuously and consistently.”

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