FAQs about OETA and the OETA Foundation
Q. What’s going on?
A. The Foundation’s Board of Trustees authorized a lawsuit to be filed against OETA. The Foundation has failed to provide proper oversight over their organization and allowed it to ignite this controversy by denying access to parts of the shared facility, changing the locks, hacking into OETA’s system, withholding funds, and ultimately suing us in a blatant power grab.
In response, OETA’s governing Board has terminated OETA’s agreement with the Foundation in order to protect donor funds, information, and OETA’s integrity. OETA employees and governing Board members are focused on continued delivery of quality, life-enriching public media to Oklahomans. We are proud to carry on the six decades of work that have made OETA the most-watched PBS station in America. Programming and operations are ongoing and not presently impacted by OETA’s termination of its agreement with the Foundation.
Q. What happened to the relationship between OETA and its foundation?
A. This is an interesting story.
More than 30 years ago the state legislature passed a law that allowed OETA to set up a charitable foundation to support OETA.
For most of those 30 years the relationship between OETA and the Foundation worked well.
Within the last five years dissention arose between the two and the Foundation began repeatedly attempting to interfere with OETA operations and to unduly influence OETA’s state governing Board. OETA tried to correct the problems through repeated meetings but the problems only grew worse.
The Foundation today refuses to give OETA access to our donor funds and how they have been used. The Foundation has locked OETA employees out of multiple areas within the OETA building. OETA is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensee and responsible for its operations, programming and donor finances. The Foundation is a fundraising auxiliary and should not be attempting to also function as public television station.
Last month the Foundation sued OETA to try and seize even more control. OETA countered the suit in the courts asking the judge to drop the frivolous claims made in the Foundation lawsuit.
As a last resort, the OETA Board, accountable to the State of Oklahoma and charged with ensuring OETA’s viability and compliance with laws and regulations, officially terminated the agreement with the Foundation and began the process of identifying a new charitable organization to responsibly oversee donor funds and to retrieve the donor money already raised, putting it to proper use as required by the FCC and Corporation for Public Broadcasting and, most importantly, as intended by our donors.
Q. Is the money I’ve already given to OETA safe?
A. OETA has advised the Foundation that we consider all funds, assets, property, and information they possess to be held solely and exclusively for the benefit of OETA. The Foundation has affirmed this on multiple occasions. We are confident, once the Foundation’s lawsuit is resolved, those generous gifts will be honored as the donors intended and used to support OETA.
Q. Can I still give money to OETA?
A. OETA has temporarily suspended accepting new donations as we finalize negotiating a relationship with the Friends of OETA, Inc. charitable organization. We are moving as quickly as possible to resume donations and fundraising but we take seriously the charge to shepherd funds given and funds that will be given in a manner that is transparent and ethical.
Q. Is a state agency (OETA) trying to take over the Foundation?
A. No. The Foundation was originally created by a diverse group of philanthropic Oklahomans to serve OETA and unfortunately has since become a rogue organization. They have refused to provide basic information crucial to the operation of OETA. Donor funds, given in good faith, have been misappropriated for unauthorized programming and unsolicited content creation and production. Donors have been lied to about the collection and use of their well-intended donations. OETA, a state agency, is simply choosing to select a new, more responsible charity to cooperate with in order to protect its donors and their funds.
Q. Who is leading OETA and how did they get there?
- Dr. Richard Beck, Provost Rogers State University
- Terri Cornett, Civic Volunteer
- Dr. Cheryl Evans, President Northern Oklahoma College
- Mr. James Gallogly, OU President
- Mr. Burns Hargis, OSU President
- Ms. Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma Superintendent
- Mr. Reese "Cody" Inman, Civic Volunteer
- Dr. Glen D. Johnson, Chancellor Oklahoma State Regents
- Mr. Garrett King - Board Chair
- Ms. Suzanne Lair, Principal Jenks Public Schools
- Dr. Larry Rice, President Rogers State University
- Mr. Clarke Stroud, Director OU Football Operations
- Public media veteran Polly Anderson’s leadership as Executive Director has been an outstanding asset to OETA since her hiring just over one year ago. She continues to have the full support of the OETA Board of Directors.
Q. Has OETA really refused a legislative meeting with the Foundation?
A. OETA has met with state legislative and executive officials regarding our ongoing efforts over a multi-year period, including as recently as Monday, January 7, 2019. At Monday’s meeting, OETA clearly outlined the reasons it believes that, short of decisive action by the few remaining members of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, termination of the relationship is the only remaining option to protect public television in Oklahoma. Additionally, OETA leaders met repeatedly with the Foundation to resolve these issues outside of the courts. The Foundation staff continued to overstep the authority granted to them by state law and continued to willfully mislead donors, withholding funds and duplicating the functions of the state agency—they even went so far as to defy the direct orders of the Foundation’s governing board, leading to multiple resignations from that body in 2018 of longtime OETA supporters.
Q. Why did OETA evict the Foundation from the building they formally shared?
A. The Foundation has used the OETA facility as a guest of OETA. Recently, the Foundation staff restricted access to OETA personnel within the OETA headquarters, changed the locks on the building, hacked OETA’s state computer network, and recently reported to OETA that they installed an unauthorized video surveillance system. The responsible action on the part of OETA as a state agency to protect state employees and state assets was clear.
The Foundation had become a totally unaccountable organization – operating outside its intended statutory and fiscal boundaries and acting in defiance of its earlier earlier governing board members, leading to the resignation of several longtime Foundation Trustees and OETA supporters. Despite over two years of negotiations and good faith efforts on the part of OETA to bring our Foundation back to its intended role, the Foundation recklessly and maliciously resisted all civil efforts and refused to negotiate multiple proposed reforms. Therefore, it is necessary and prudent to clearly separate our operational functions at this time and to prevent the Foundation from further undermining of the state agency it was established to serve.
Q. Why won’t OETA cash checks amounting to over $1.2 million provided by the Foundation?
A. OETA conducts the stewardship of all funds with the utmost caution and integrity. OETA is working with our federal and state regulators, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office, to ensure proper accounting and handling of these funds.
Q. How does OETA fit into PBS/Corporation for Public Broadcasting?
A. OETA is a PBS member station and a CPB grantee. Although the Foundation has repeatedly attempted to misrepresent OETA to our federal regulators and partners, the Foundation has no relationship with PBS or the CPB outside of OETA. OETA has a very positive relationship with both PBS and CPB and has kept both entities advised of the ongoing issues with the Foundation.
Q. Where does OETA go from here?
A. OETA is working through this complex situation in consultation with state legislative and executive officials and our federal regulators. We are committed to the outstanding programming that has made it the most-watched PBS-station in America. We are diligently working to secure all past and present donor funds with a new and responsible charitable foundation that will be governed by an independent board of philanthropic and ethical individuals who can cooperate with OETA’s governing board in a mutually-beneficial relationship.