Recent newspaper accounts and letters to the editor have raised concerns about Blair and Susan Feulner’s compensation and the proceeds they received from the sale of KCUA, Coalville. First, it should be noted, the board took its responsibilities with regard to both these issues very seriously. The board created a compensation committee and hired one of the top, nonprofit, tax attorneys in Utah (Bill Prater) for guidance.
Second, the board was very conscientious in making certain that the details of the KCUA sale and employee compensation were publicly disclosed in the station’s audited financial statements and IRS form 990, both of which are available at KPCW or online at KCPW.org. For the first 10 years Blair and Susan’s compensation averaged $13,489 per year, each; for the next 10 years $50,104. After 20 years of being paid below the public radio averages for their responsibilities, the board, in recent years, decided to raise their compensation to the high end of the public radio scale — for stations with similar budgets. For fiscal year 2003/2004, the last year Susan was full-time, her compensation — after retirement contributions — was $107,861. Blair’s was $127,652. Blair’s base salary for 2005 is $140,000. However, that salary is split equally between KPCW (Park City) and KCPW (Salt Lake). That is, Park City contributors are paying him about $70,000 per year, which is less, given university benefits, than KUER’s station manager is paid. Another interesting note: the average salary of a Salt Lake commercial station manager is $221,000. In setting Blair’s compensation, Bill Prater examined the job descriptions of other public station managers and reported Blair acts as corporate engineer for two stations, personally raises over $200,000 a year in challenge grants and spends three hours a day on-air doing news and interviews. The Board felt, all things considered, Blair was a bargain and that replacing him would require the hiring of several people whose combined salaries would be considerably more than his. In fact, the cost to replace Susan will be more than what she was being paid. Regarding the KCUA sale, in the early ’90s — after hundreds of hours of non-station-related work — Blair and Susan brought to the board a proposal for the joint acquisition of a commercial license in Coalville. The board agreed to give them 51 percent interest in the license in recognition of the work they did to make it possible. As explained in more detail in Community Wireless’ most recent audited financial statements, Community Wireless entered into an agreement with Blair and Susan, in their individual capacities, first to jointly purchase KCUA and then ultimately to make an interest in the station part of their employment agreements. The radio frequency was originally acquired in 1991 for $18,800. Ten years later a commercial broadcaster offered to buy the station for $75,000. Due to their expertise in both commercial and non-commercial radio, Blair and Susan advised the board to reject that offer and after three years of difficult negotiations, pushed the value of the deal to $3.5 million. Bill Prater and the board’s compensation committee believed that the Feulners had a legitimate claim to 51 percent of the sale by prior agreement. However, the Feulners ultimately agreed to a 25 percent claim (12.5 percent each) as a way to make a contribution to what the board hopes will become an endowment fund supporting public broadcasting in the future. The board believes that it has responsibly represented the interests of Wireless contributors and that Park City residents have for 25 years been the beneficiaries of the hard work, dedication and expertise of Blair and Susan Feulner. (To read the unedited version of this guest editorial, go to KPCW.org.)
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