Interim director named for JPR transition

Southern Oregon University President Mary Cullinan has appointed an interim executive director for Jefferson Public Radio.

JPR Associate Director Paul Westhelle will succeed Ron Kramer, whose contract was terminated, effective June 30.

"I am delighted that Paul has agreed to this interim position," Cullinan said in a prepared statement. "He has the respect of SOU, JPR staff and the JPR Foundation board. Paul will provide thoughtful and knowledgeable leadership as we build consensus, address upcoming transition issues, and move forward."

Westhelle comes from a 30-year non-profit management background. He has been at JPR since 1990 and has served as JPR's associate director the past 12 years.

The appointment comes after a high-profile dispute between the JPR Foundation Board and SOU. An Oregon University System audit concluded the foundation's non-radio projects, including the Holly Theatre restoration and construction of a new Medford headquarters, could be too much for JPR financially.

The audit resulted in a mediation and a proposed settlement agreement, which would have split the foundation from JPR, transferred JPR's 22 radio stations into a single nonprofit called the Jefferson Public Radio Foundation and terminated Kramer's dual role as executive director for both entities.

OUS lawyers sent a letter describing how foundation board members and Kramer could be personally liable if they failed to agree to the settlement.

Some foundation board members, unhappy with the decision, considered resigning. Board members were released from personal liability last week should any lawsuits arise in the ongoing negotiations.

On June 23, the foundation agreed to return to mediation with SOU during a 60-day "cooling-off" period recommended by Gov. John Kitzhaber and local legislators last week.

Kramer later said in an email that he plans to retire upon his termination date and that he would also leave his position as executive director of the foundation.

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