JPR leadership mediation talks set to start

A mediator will attempt this week to patch up a dispute raised by the Oregon University System that challenges Jefferson Public Radio's leadership structure and its rapid growth in recent years.

Retired federal judge Terry Lukens, aided by consultants versed in nonprofits and public radio stations, will meet Thursday and Friday with representatives from JPR and the Office of the Chancellor of the Oregon University System.

"We would like it to be successful," said Steve Nelson, president of the JPR Foundation board.

An audit conducted by the Chancellor's Office recommends greater separation between JPR and its fundraising arm, the JPR Foundation.

The Foundation has purchased and is remodeling the Holly Theatre in downtown Medford as well as taking over buildings on 10th Street for future headquarters for the JPR studios.

In addition, the university system has terminated Ron Kramer, the executive director of the radio station and the foundation, as of June 30. The audit determined that Kramer's dual roles could pose a potential conflict of interest.

JPR officials have denounced the audit's conclusions, saying they would jeopardize the mission of the radio station.

Despite its criticism of JPR, the university system itself already has other administrators performing dual roles, partly as a cost-saving measure.

In the audit, the JPR Foundation's efforts to remodel the Holly and build a radio headquarters are deemed potential threats that could undermine fundraising efforts of Southern Oregon University.

The audit findings have hit JPR at a time when it wants to expand its operations and revenue stream in the face of cutbacks from the university system.

Nelson said meetings already have been held with Lukens prior to the mediation to bring him up-to-speed with the issues on the table.

"This has been an ongoing process," he said.

Nelson said both sides in the dispute have agreed to not discuss the impending mediation issues until the former judge has a chance to provide a non-binding recommendation.

Diane Saunders, spokewoman for the Chancellor's Office, said she couldn't discuss the issues between the university system and JPR until the mediation is completed.

The JPR Foundation is continuing to remodel the Holly Theatre. A cracked truss inside the building is being repaired. Because of the truss problem, the city declared the building unsafe about a decade ago. At the time, temporary supports were placed under the cracked beam.

Chris Reising, director of Medford's Building Department, said that tensioning devices will be attached to the repaired trusses. Once the devices are installed, the temporary supports can be removed.

Reising said the city has given JPR permission to take small groups through the building after the repairs are finished to help with fundraising efforts.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email dmann@mailtribune.com.


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