Kitzhaber steps into S. Ore. public radio dispute

  • Sat Jun 23rd, 2012 3:07pm
  • News

Associated Press

MEDFORD, Ore. — Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has stepped into a battle over control of Jefferson Public Radio, a network of stations heard in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Kitzhaber plans to name a mediator for a two-month cooling off period between Southern Oregon University and the Jefferson Public Radio Foundation, an aide said. Each party owns some of the stations in the extensive network, which broadcasts from the school.

During bargaining, the existing contracts between the two sides would stay in place, said Ben Cannon, Kitzhaber’s education adviser. Cannon said Kitzhaber had talked about the dispute with George Pernsteiner, state chancellor of higher education.

Threats of lawsuits against members of the foundation would be dropped, Cannon told the Medford Mail Tribune ( ) for a story published Friday.

“We realize that’s a real cause for alarm for some or maybe all of the board members,” Cannon said. “We are prepared not to go that route.”

The offer smooths the way for more negotiations, said Steve Nelson, chairman of the foundation. Board members had talked about resigning en masse after the letters from university lawyers threatened expensive lawsuits.

“I would work very hard to get members of our board of directors to agree to the terms set forth by the governor, simply because their personal liability has been extinguished,” he said.

A higher education audit has questioned the foundation’s non-radio initiatives, such as restoring old theaters, and the dual roles of Ron Kramer as head of the stations and the foundation. The school later dismissed Kramer from his longstanding job running the stations.

Cannon said that decision stands.

“Ron Kramer is no longer employed by SOU when his contract expires on June 30,” he said in an email to Nelson. “He can continue to work for JPR Foundation.”