Letter from the Audit Committee

January 24, 2014

Dear VPT Viewers and Supporters,

This morning, the Audit Committee of the VPT Board of Directors met to discuss the recent allegations concerning the organization’s compliance with open meeting rules of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).  In recent weeks, we have received a number of comments and questions from our viewers and supporters about this matter.  As the chair of the Audit Committee, I want to personally thank everyone for their support and interest, and to provide the public with some additional information on the matter.

As I noted during the Audit Committee meeting this morning, VPT -- like many other public television stations -- receives important financial support from CPB in the form of Community Service Grants.  CPB requires its grantees to comply with various requirements, including what are commonly known as the “open meeting requirements.”  These open meeting requirements provide that VPT Board and committee meetings should in most cases be open to the public and preceded by reasonable public notice.  VPT takes compliance with these and all other CPB requirements very seriously.  We believe firmly that our Board and committee meetings should be open to the public and preceded by advance public notice.  The only exceptions are situations recognized in CPB’s own guidelines, such as when we need to discuss a personnel matter or receive advice of counsel.    VPT views itself as a reflection of the local community that supports it, and we welcome and encourage interested members of the public to attend these Board and committee meetings. 

In a letter dated December 24, 2013, VPT and CPB received an anonymous report regarding VPT’s compliance with open meeting requirements.  CPB indicated that it would review the report, as it does with all such matters.  VPT and the Board of Directors are fully cooperating with this process.  In order to assist CPB with its review, VPT is in the process of examining its practices with respect to open meeting requirements. 

VPT’s preliminary review indicates that the VPT Board has, from time to time, held conference calls or committee meetings that were not open to the public in order to address various personnel matters.  These meetings were conducted internally because VPT, like most organizations, does not publicly discuss personnel matters. 

The open meeting rules contain an exception for meetings that address these types of personnel matters.  Specifically, the rules provide that a board is permitted to hold “closed sessions to consider matters relating to individual employees.”  The open meeting rules further state that following a closed session, the organization should issue a brief written statement identifying “the reasons for closing the meeting.”  Our initial internal review suggests that, in some instances,  we may not have satisfied this procedural aspect of the open meetings requirement. 

Because our review is ongoing, we believe  that it would be premature to comment further at this time on these preliminary findings.  But we recognize that there may have been shortcomings and are committed to address them.  VPT takes very seriously all compliance matters, and both VPT management and the Board are committed to fully cooperating with CPB as it completes its review of this matter. 

During the meeting this morning, the Audit Committee unanimously approved a set of recommendations to the Board of Directors that are aimed at ensuring ongoing compliance with open meeting requirements.  We expect that the Board of Directors will consider those recommendations during its meeting on Monday.  We also expect that VPT will soon submit to CPB a formal recertification of full compliance with open meeting requirements.  This will ensure that VPT continues to remain eligible to receive the Community Service Grants that help further VPT’s mission of inspiring Vermonters to be lifelong learners. 

We are working to complete our review of this matter, and share those findings with CPB and the public.  VPT prides itself on its compliance record, and we welcome the opportunity to reexamine its internal processes in order to ensure the complete fulfillment of all grant obligations. 

Like the rest of the VPT Board, we volunteer our time to this organization because we care deeply about Vermont Public Television and the important role it plays in our state.  We are committed to VPT’s success and adherence to its values, including transparency and openness. 

Sincerely yours,

VPT Audit Committee

By: Tom Pelletier, Chair

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