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  • Dialing Down The Heat

    SOU, JPR Foundation agree to return to mediation
  • The Jefferson Public Radio Foundation and Southern Oregon University took a step back from the abyss Friday, agreeing to return to mediation to resolve their differences during a 60-day "cooling off" period.
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  • The Jefferson Public Radio Foundation and Southern Oregon University took a step back from the abyss Friday, agreeing to return to mediation to resolve their differences during a 60-day "cooling off" period.
    The JPR Foundation passed resolutions Friday evening to return to mediation with SOU, put together a mediation team that would accept offers and make counteroffers, and maintain its current contract for exchange of services with the university for 60 days, said foundation Chairman Steve Nelson.
    The foundation met for several hours at the University Club next to the Holly Theatre. The foundation originally convened to decide whether it would sign an agreement reached earlier this month between SOU and the JPR Foundation's executive committee.
    The details of the agreement were made public for the first time Friday, but parts of it could change after a second round of mediation, said Di Saunders, the communications director for the Oregon University System.
    "I think there's optimism that we can come to an agreement and that it won't take the full 60 days," Saunders said.
    One development that seemed to put the JPR Foundation more at ease was a document releasing its board members from personal liability should any lawsuits arise from the disagreement.
    The document, which was signed by SOU President Mary Cullinan, was presented to the foundation during Friday's meeting.
    Nelson said the release form was welcomed by the foundation members.
    "I would say that the board was relieved," Nelson said.
    The drama sparked after an audit sought by the Oregon University System suggested that the foundation's non-radio projects, including restoration of the Holly Theatre and construction of new headquarters in Medford, could overextend JPR financially.
    The audit led to a mediation session earlier this month and a proposed settlement agreement.
    But members of the foundation were unhappy with the agreement and at least some considered resigning rather than sign the document under threat of personal lawsuits from the university.
    The tensions subsided Thursday when Gov. John Kitzhaber stepped in and said the university system should reopen mediation talks with the foundation board. His education policy adviser, Ben Cannon, also said the governor had instructed the Chancellor's Office to drop the threat of lawsuits.
    The OUS audit called for greater separation between JPR's fundraising foundation and its radio operations and said the role of Ron Kramer, who serves as executive director of both JPR and its foundation, was a potential conflict of interest.
    The mediated agreement would have separated the current JPR Foundation from Jefferson Public Radio and created a new nonprofit to carry on the work of JPR's 22 radio stations, 14 of which are owned by SOU and eight of which are owned by the foundation.
    The settlement addressed the issues raised by the audit by consolidating the radio operations and fundraising for the stations into one nonprofit that would have been called the Jefferson Public Radio Foundation.
    The current JPR Foundation and SOU would have then transferred their radio stations and Federal Communications Commission licenses (subject to FCC approval) to the new nonprofit by June 30, 2013. The transfer would have included trademarks, cash and investments held for the benefit of JPR, all contracts and agreements and all property, plant and equipment related to JPR operations.
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