On the 8 am newscast on MPR’s KNOW 91.1 FM yesterday, I heard that Rice County District Court Judge Bernard Borene ruled in favor of St. Olaf and MPR on the SaveWCAL petition to "redress a breach of charitable trust" on the sale of WCAL to MPR. There’s nothing posted to the MPR nor St. Olaf websites about the decision but SaveWCAL board president Ruth Sylte blogged the organization’s response to it yesterday around 10:30 am. I last blogged about this battle in June 2008: SaveWCAL wins another round; Judge Wolf scolds MN Attorney General’s office. Local media coverage: Northfield News story; KYMN story.
Ruth Sylte, president of SaveWCAL, alerted me yesterday to a press release posted on their website titled Rice County District Court Judge issues Order in WCAL case. In his ruling, Judge Wolf wrote:
The only watchdog looking out for the interests of the trust in this case was the Respondent, the non-profit organization SaveWCAL. SaveWCAL raised the alarm when they first learned of the sale of WCAL by St. Olaf, but neither St. Olaf nor the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office paid any heed to SaveWCAL’s warning. Now, the Court is faced with a plethora of issues to unravel in the aftermath of St. Olaf’s unapproved sale of WCAL and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office’s breach of its duties in this case.
Media coverage this week:
- MPR: Judge clears way for St. Olaf to use some WCAL donations
- City Pages: Judge in WCAL case to AG’s office: Shame on you!
In a letter to MN Attorney General Swanson, Ruth writes:
Therefore, the Attorney General has a legal responsibility to the 80,000 listeners-beneficiaries of the WCAL trust to commence a proceeding requesting the Court to declare that the sale of the assets of the charitable trust to Minnesota Public Radio is void.
I got a Locally Grown Twitter this morning from Ruth Sylte, president of SaveWCAL, regarding a press release posted on their website titled SaveWCAL Wins a Victory for Public Radio Supporters and WCAL Donors.
I talked to Ruth briefly this afternoon and asked her if she’d chime in here to help us understand the latest developments. She’s agreed.
The Northfield News has a story in today’s paper titled WCAL controversy continues at St. Olaf: Attorney General rules college had no right to sell:
SaveWCAL, the group formed in August of 2004 to fight the sale, argued from the beginning that St. Olaf acted wrongly when it agreed to sell the beloved listener-supported station. The station should have been recognized as a charitable trust, members of the group said. Donations to WCAL by listeners were merely held by the college. St. Olaf had no right to sell the station without donor’s permission, they said.
On Wednesday, the state Attorney General’s office agreed with SaveWCAL. It declared WCAL a charitable trust. Michael Cunningham, St. Olaf’s attorney, and attorney Michael McNabb of SaveWCAL have until July 9 to respond to the Attorney General’s ruling. Depending on St. Olaf’s response, the case may be reviewed again by the Attorney General’s office, then turned over to Judge Gerald Wolf by July 17. The sale of WCAL could be declared void, McNabb said, which would be a major victory for SaveWCAL which has hoped for three years to reinstate what it sees as its members’ radio station.
Last week, City Pages ran a feature story titled WCAL: A Trust Betrayed: Alumni are cutting St. Olaf out of their wills in protest of the decision to sell WCAL. (Cynthia Child blogged the CP story on N.org.) There’s no mention of the CP story nor the Attorney General’s decision on the St. Olaf News web site.
The SaveWCAL weblog reports that St. Olaf, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy Howard Hong…
“…is very concerned that a future administration might sell the highly valuable rare book collection in the Kierkegaard Library (the largest in the world and assessed in the millions of dollars), and then argue that since the Kierkegaard Library no longer exists, that the college be permitted to use the funds in the Kierkegaard Library endowment (and its sub-accounts) for purposes other than what the donors requested.”
Update 6/29: I’ve changed the headline of the blog post from “rules in favor of” to “agrees with” since only the court can ‘rule.’
I thought the saga of St. Olaf’s sale of WCAL to MPR ended over a year ago (See this Northfield News article from Feb. 2006 titled: Regents approve plan for WCAL funds.)
When the sale was announced back in 2004, I supported it as the Regents rationale that the station didn’t have that much to do with the faculty or student body or the mission of the college anymore made sense to me.
But it’s not over. I got an email from Northfielder Ruth Sylte who maintains a blog called SaveWCAL: The story of the first listener-supported radio station in the USA.
Her Dec. 28th post announced that “St. Olaf College filed a petition in District Court requesting the court to approve St. Olaf’s plans to repurpose the funds that it acknowledges it holds in the WCAL charitable trust” and her March 8 post gives her account of the Rice County District Court hearing, which continues on April 13.
I tried to find something about this on the St. Olaf web site but came up empty. Is this much ado about nothing or are there genuine storm clouds brewing once again for the college over this issue?