The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

January 28, 2014

PEGASYS' money issue going to court

ENID, Okla. — The PEGASYS Board of Directors will draw the city of Enid into district court to obtain funds held by the public-access television agency.

Board member and attorney William Maxwell confirmed he filed an interpleader with Garfield County District Court, effectively ceding custody of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of the nonprofit’s finances so District Judge Dennis Hladik can determine the correct course of action.

In terminating its contract with PEGASYS last week, the city of Enid claimed all of the funds it previously allocated to the agency. PEGASYS also has $30,808.87 in private donations that must be disbursed.

City officials declined to comment on the board’s action Tuesday.

One option is for those donations to be given back. Board member Sean Byrne, however, noted a possible issue with that plan.

“If they donated in 2011 or 2012, it was a tax-deductible donation. They’ve already taken their tax deduction on it,” he said. “If we refund that money, basically it’s income.”

Board members also deferred discussion on dissolving the nonprofit PEGASYS organization. It appears they are under no obligation to cease activity, but now find themselves without a client or benefactor.

During the meeting Tuesday, the board voted to terminate Executive Director Wendy Quarles’ employment because the city has withdrawn all its funding and offered her a compensation package.

The longtime administrator was praised by members of the public attending the board meeting. Victoria Hanousek, who has worked with Quarles before, commended her strength of character and work ethic.

“What’s happened here is beyond my understanding. I sat in the (city commission) meeting Thursday night and thought there’s something else going on here that’s not being exposed,” she said. “It appeared as a vendetta by certain commissioners against Mrs. Quarles. If she applies herself to a job, it’s 1,000 percent.”

At the Enid City Commission meeting last week, some commissioners criticized Quarles and PEGASYS leadership for a lack of fundraising and performance over the past decade.

PEGASYS Operations Manager Christopher Sneed also spoke up for his boss. He said there might have been expectations that he didn’t know about.

“Whatever decisions you have to make today, I’d ask you to keep in mind that there’s nothing grievous or anything that was so out of line,” he said. “As someone who worked with her and spent more time with her than anybody else, I think, in this room on a daily basis over the last year, I can say that I never noticed anything inappropriate. I was never treated inappropriately.”

As part of the city’s plan to take over public-access operations, Sneed and Programming Manager Penn Cline will be offered positions in the public relations department.

An advisory panel is being formed to guide how the city will administer the three public-educational-governmental access stations provided through a franchise agreement with Suddenlink. Public Relations Director Steve Kime will oversee operations for now, and the panel is expected to provide a report to the city commission before the next city budget begins in July.

Kime said he has visited with Sneed and Cline to make sure there is no lapse in programming. He also called about a dozen churches this week and promised their programs still will be aired.

“My efforts the last two days have been to assure that the transition will be seamless. For the next 90 days, you may see some enhancements, but you won’t see any lapse in services,” he said.

Kime said the city’s role of PR director, even before he came on board, included the responsibility of directing video, operations and productions for public-access programming, and to oversee projects contracted through PEGASYS.

“It’s been in the job description for quite a while,” he said.

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