Friends of WLRN Sitting on Six Million Dollars

The philanthropy arm of PBS television affiliate and public radio station WLRN has incurred the wrath of some Miami-Dade School Board members. In his weekly edition of The Watchdog Report, Daniel Ricker reveals Friends of WLRN and Miami-Dade Public Schools, which owns the station's federal license, have reached an impasse in negotiations for a new operating agreement. The news apparently set off School Board Vice Chairman Lawrence Feldman during a board audit committee last week, according to Ricker.

Ricker says an irate Feldman noted the foundation has about $6 million parked in investments. The vice-chairman told his colleagues that Friends should release the funds to the district and that the school board should sue the fundraising agency if "all our demands are not met," Ricker reported.

The watchdog also noted board Chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman backed Feldman. She said Friends of WLRN has had "a total lack of respect of the school board for years." Another revelation: Friends of WLRN has stalled in releasing information about its employees' salaries and other expenses that the school board requested in 2008.

Eyeonmiami blogger Gimleteye is not surprised WLRN's foundation is ducking the school board. He (She?) tried to expand the station's coverage into the Florida Keys circa 1989. Gimleteye writes: "My meetings with WLRN management gave me a sense of an institution that kept its arms open for donors, but its corporate doors closed from inspection."

If there's $6 million, Gimleteye argues, Friends of WLRN should use the money to improve programming with "fresher views, newer voices and altogether reach out in ways that the mainstream press in Miami fails to do."

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