[JPL] KKJZ woes

Jackson, Bobby Bobby.Jackson at ideastream.org
Mon Jul 17 17:14:54 EDT 2006

I just saw this.  It might be old news to many but it is new for me.

Bobby Jackson

Ex-programmer wins $800K suit against California's KKJZ
Originally published in Current, Jan. 17, 2006
By Mike Janssen

A California judge has ordered KKJZ-FM in Long Beach to pay almost
$800,000 to a former programmer and found the station and its g.m. had
committed fraud, misrepresentation and breach of contract. The station
will appeal.

General Manager Judy Jankowski retired from KKJZ Dec. 8 [2005], a month
after the ruling. Jankowski could not be reached for comment, but
station staffers say she retired to travel, not because of the judgment.
"We weren't feeling the type of pressure that would cause her to resign
over something like that," says Sean Heitkemper, interim g.m. 

Rene Engel, the program manager from spring 2001 to fall 2002, sued the
station in 2003, asserting that Jankowski promised him long-term job
security and a six-figure salary to lure him from his previous job as
g.m. of KCSN-FM in Northridge, Calif.

Engel's attorneys argued that Jankowski was irresponsible to promise
Engel such a high salary because KKJZ, then using its longtime call
letters KLON, was losing money in 2001. By the time of Engel's
departure, the station's money problems had improved. Yet Jankowski told
him she was firing him for financial reasons, they said.

Attorneys for Pacific Public Radio, which operates KKJZ under an
agreement with California State University, Long Beach, responded that
the financial concerns were legitimate and that forecasting revenue at a
public radio station is "very difficult." Stations often grapple with
dramatic swings in cash flow between fund drives, they argued.

Siding with Engel, Superior Court Judge Judith C. Chirlin found
Jankowski showed a "reckless disregard for truth" when she made her
promises. The station's budgeting practices "were so haphazard and
unreliable as to make any commitment of long-term employment reckless
and irresponsible," the judge said. She awarded Engel $779,881 in

KKJZ's attorneys will challenge the decision in state appeals court. If
they lose the case, a $1 million insurance plan will cover Engel's

Station leaders defend Jankowski and dispute the judge's verdict. KKJZ
Board Chairman Jeffrey Adler argues that Engel's firing was permissible
because, as an at-will employee, he had no guarantee of long-term

As for the attacks on KKJZ's financial planning, "I don't think the
judge truly understands the nature of public radio," Adler says. "I'd
say we're an average, healthy public radio station, which means that we
always will have cash-flow problems and always will be looking to
increase our donor base."

KKJZ has operated in the red since fiscal year 2000. In fiscal year
2004, its expenses of more than $3.3 million exceeded income by about
$277,000. CPB withheld $69,633 from the station's later grants because
it overstated non-federal financial support earned from its annual blues
festival. Adler blames the ongoing shortfalls on equipment upgrades and
a shrinking audience for KKJZ's jazz and blues format. He expects the
station to finish this fiscal year in the black.

"We're pleased with the direction the station is headed in and credit a
lot of that to Judy's hand on the tiller for the many years she was
there," he says. 

Correction: As printed and originally posted on the Web, this article
misstated the results of an audit of the station's CPB grants in fiscal
years 1998 through 2000. KKJZ's overstatements of nonfederal financial
support resulted in CPB grant overpayments of $69,633, not "more than
$500,000," as the article stated. Also, the station did not repay the
money, as the article stated. The money was withheld from Community
Service Grants that were later awarded to KKJZ.

Web page posted Jan. 17, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Current Publishing Committee

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