Former KPCW newsman speaks out
January 23, 2009
Former KPCW newsman Blair Feulner said he would have been back on the air this month had his contract negotiations not derailed with the non-profit radio station’s board of directors last summer.
Feulner, the recognizable baritone who helped found the local National Public Radio affiliate almost 30 years ago, announced his resignation last July.
"What I want to do is bring closure to this part of my life," Feulner said Thursday in an interview in Park City.
Feulner, a former KPCW general manager, said he took a 50-percent pay cut when he signed a new contract with the radio station in 2007.
"I was just needing to kick back and get out of the day-to-day operations. It wasn’t fun any more and I wanted to be back doing news," Feulner said.
Last March, he said he began to "strongly disagree" with decisions made by new KPCW board members who took over in January 2008.
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"In any company you are going to have disagreements about how the company is run," Feulner said. "I just don’t feel good about going into the details of what those business decisions were. They were important enough to me that I felt that I couldn’t stick around."
According to Feulner, "Because I didn’t want to be present when the consequences of those decisions played out, I requested an unpaid, leave of absence starting in July (2008.)"
"During the next three months, I attempted to negotiate a new agreement in which, per my previous contract, I would return to the station, part time, to do news in January 2009," he added.
Feulner said $45,000 would have been his annual salary. But the iconic "voice of Park City" didn’t return to broadcasting.
Feulner said the negotiations "bogged down" when he was asked to agree to a "gag clause that forbid me from publicly discussing anything that had to do with KPCW’s past, present, or future, for the rest of my life."
"I was dumbfounded," Feulner said. "I had a desire to be back on the air and the issue with that contract was not mine."
When the current board took control of KPCW about a year ago $800,000 was in reserves, Feulner said.
"[KPCW was] unable to meet their obligation to pay the city what they owed them on their new building," Feulner said about a lease payment the station missed paying City Hall.
And now the downturn in the economy may not bode well for many nonprofits in Park City, he added.
"I saw the station through three recessions," Feulner said.
He was there when KPCW signed on at the War Memorial Building on Main Street in 1980.
"This is all I have done for three decades and so I felt that it was in the best interest of myself and the company just to ask for a leave of absence and get out of the way," Feulner said.
When his request was refused, Feulner said, "in my letter of resignation I promised the board that I wouldn’t turn this into a public fight because I didn’t want to damage the radio station."
"I was really trying to work something out that would be really cool for everybody concerned, and I was very much disappointed that it didn’t happen," Feulner said. "I believe there were still board members who were still working to come up with a contract that would be acceptable."
But he would not disclose the names of those trustees.
Feulner did take a parting shot at Joe Wrona, an attorney in Park City who became a KPCW spokesman during the negotiations last year.
"I’ve got to admit that I was surprised and appalled by much of what Mr. Wrona had to say," Feulner said.
A new assignment
The Summit County Council Wednesday named Feulner, South Summit resident Bob Wheaton and North Summit resident Doug Geary to a selection committee that will appoint five people to vet applicants for the new Summit County manager post.