Web site of the Friends of KOOP .|. Last update 7-23-99
This site is not approved of or endorsed by
KO.OP Radio.
This is the site of "Friends of KOOP", a group of KOOP members working to restore democracy and accountability at the station.

Friends of KOOP mostly died out, abandoning its efforts to try to save the station. We stopped updating this website in July 1999, but provide the full contents here for historical purposes. It's a lesson in how the leadership of a supposedly left-leaning organization can seize power, screw its members, and break the law, DESPITE organized opposition from the membership, and even a lawsuit. Sobering, and sad. -- Michael Bluejay

Introduction to this website

Friends of KOOP is a group of members working to restore democratic control of the station by recalling the non-cooperative Board of Trustees. This website tells the story.

Origin of KOOP
In the early 80's, Jim Ellinger, then a resident at Whitehall Co-op, used his 30th birthday party in December 1983 as the occasion to announce his intention to obtain the last non-commercial radio frequency in Austin and start a cooperatively-run radio station. By the late 80's, after years of work by Ellinger and others to incorporate, secure non-profit status, find a suitable tower site, and most significantly, push for modifications to the old "Wolfman Jack" treaty with Mexico which made it possible to apply for the 91.7fm frequency for the first time, it looked as though the dream would become reality. but then at the last minute, on the second to last day of a 30-day "window", students at UT decided to file for the frequency themselves. This resulted in a lengthy, costly, and sometimes bitter battle for that last radio spot, delaying progress by even more years. Finally, a compromise was reached in which both groups would share the frequency: KOOP would broadcast on 91.7 by day, and KVRX would use the same frequency at night. When Ellinger got the license, he turned the license and control of the station over to the community. In December 1994, eleven years to the day after Ellinger announced his plans at Whitehall, KOOP Radio went on the air. (The battle for the frequency being long over, KOOP and KVRX are now good friends.)
What is KOOP?

KOOP was founded as a community radio station and as a cooperative, meaning it was to be run by its members. Unlike public radio, which uses professional employees, KOOP is mostly volunteer-operated, and allows any member of the community to apply to produce a radio program. (And KOOP provides training for those new to radio.) KOOP has about 77 different locally-produced programs airing every week, each produced by an individual member or by a collective of members. KOOP provides a diverse array of programming, emphasizing programs that deal with local issues and/or serve communities which have been traditionally under-represented by the mainstream media. KOOP generally schedules music programs during the day, and news/public affairs programs in the late afternoon. (KVRX broadcasts at night. See above.)

What's wrong with KOOP?

Half of KOOP's Board of Trustees seized power through a questionable election process in the Summer of 1997, and immediately started making big changes (to station procedures, the Bylaws, the Mission Statement) without seeking the input of the membership, and ignoring it when it was given. They also acted irresponsibly, micromanaging the General Manager's job, and ultimately dismissing her to further consolidate their own power. They refused to post agendas and minutes of meetings, had poor attendance at their own meetings, failed to hold an Annual Membership Meeting, refused to provide membership and financial records as required by state law, and lashed out angrily at anyone who dared to disagree with them.

 The membership tried to work with the board in good faith, but the board refused. They dismissed our concerns, even when members voted 37-8 at a station meeting to express their disapproval of the board's direction (and six out of the eight voting "No" were current or former members of the Board of Trustees!). The vote was symbolic and was held simply to show the trustees how unpopular their actions were, since the members did not have the power to decide such issues themselves. Nevertheless, the board dismissed the vote saying that we didn't represent the entire membership or the community, and reminded us that they, not we, were the ultimate policy-makers of the station.

The members went to the next step. We formed a group called Friends of KO.OP, circulated a petition calling for a Special Meeting of the membership, and easily garnered enough signatures. We planned to hold the meeting at the Unitarian Church, and predictably, one of the trustees called the church before the meeting and threatened that the church could be involved with legal proceedings if they allowed KOOP's membership to meet there! (Normally you would think that a co-op's board shouldn't be trying to prevent the co-op's membership from meeting.)

Because KOOP's Bylaws don't allow for a direct recall of the trustees, we again held a symbolic vote at the meeting expressing our lack of confidence in the board, and the resolution passed by an overwhelming majority. Despite this clear expression of no-confidence by the membership, the board still refused to step down. Here's how the Texas Observer put it:

 The missed chance Scott Gardner referred to was represented by a station membership meeting organized by Friends of KOOP and other management opponents in August of 1998. Several hundred members gathered at the Unitarian Church in central Austin (a venue the board describes as unfair to minority East Austinites), to discuss and vote on what to do about the management at the station. Board supporters insisted that any membership vote must include "proxy vote" from members and organizations not present; that issue resulted in a lengthy procedural debate, with the predictable effect of exhausting the meeting and driving many members away. In the end it made no difference: either by proxy or present voters, the meeting overwhelmingly voted "no confidence" in the current board of trustees, and asked the board to step aside for a transitional committee which would organize new elections for station governance. The board ignored the request and denounced the meeting as "illegal," and took steps to revise station by-laws to prevent the possibility of any such meeting ever happening again.

 More people joined the recall effort, and columnists from both the Austin American-Statesman and the Austin Chronicle editorialized in favor of a recall. As the move to recall the Board gained strength, the board and their few supporters (primarily Paul Odekirk and Eduardo Vera) tried to turn the tables by claiming that the real reason we wanted to recall the trustees was that the trustees championed "diversity," while Friends of KOOP was supposedly a bunch of "sexist, homophobic, white supremacists." This is ludicrous. Friends of KOOP represents a diversity of races, genders, and sexual/social orientations, and many of us have significant activist experience with diversity issues. Nevertheless, their tactic worked to some extent: if we didn't respond, then it looked as though we were guilty of their accusations. If we did defend ourselves, then they succeeded in shifting the focus away from their own incompetence and failure to lead, and onto our supposed evil agenda.

We plugged along, and when the election for KOOP's Community Board (CB) came around, we endorsed a slate of candidates. The Community Board elects the Board of Trustees, and has the power to recall them. Since we had the overwhelming support of the membership, we thought we could easily win the CB election and finally put an end to the madness. However, the trustees invalidated the election, claiming some ballots were stolen, and have kept the ballots hidden, refusing to allow anyone to examine them. The trustees promised to hold another election, but made no significant progress in doing so until we took them to court.

Two members of Friends of KOOP filed a lawsuit against the trustees for mismanaging the station, and asked the Court to appoint an Oversight Committee which we had selected at the Special Membership Meeting. Instead, the judge ordered that a new Community Board election be held by a "neutral third party." The Non-Profit Center (NPC) was chosen to run the election, and we endorsed a slate of candidates again, confident that this time the election would be held properly.

But it wasn't. The Non-Profit Center blatantly violated KOOP's bylaws when designing the ballot and voting procedures, heavily skewing the ballot against our candidates. What's worse, they didn't maintain exclusive control of the ballots, openly inviting voter fraud. We thus failed to win a majority of seats on the Community Board. We asked to see the complete records of the election (which would make it easy to prove whether the kind of fraud we suspected had indeed occurred), but the NPC has refused to release the records. We're currently seeking a court order to force the release of the records.

While all this has been going on, things have gotten much worse at the station. Morale among members is so low that much work isn't getting done (which is a serious problem for a mostly-volunteer organization). And though the station is near bankrupt, the trustees continue their financial mismanagement, including giving away a $5,000 grant we had received because, they said, KOOP didn't deserve it. They've also run up a $20,000 legal bill in defending themselves from the lawsuits rather than simply stepping down, which is what the members have demanded all along. Finally, the general membership is so mistrustful of the trustees that they have sharply curtailed their donations. Many observers think the station can't survive much longer. Our only hope is to have a Court dismiss the trustees and appoint a receiver, or order another Community Board election. But many doubt that KOOP can survive long enough for either of those things to happen.

Update: Nov. 2004: Although we're not really updating this site any more, we wanted to at least mention that Eduardo Vera was finally removed from KOOP, reportedly for misappropriation of funds:

Date: November 24, 2004 5:56:34 PM CST

Subject: [KOOPlist] minutes of November 21st board meeting (unapproved)

Minutes of the November 21, 2004 meeting of the Board of Directors of KOOP Radio, Texas Educational Community Broadcasting Corporation, Inc.

  The meeting took place at the KOOP station, 304 E. 5th St., Austin, TX,

  President Andrew Dickens being in the chair, Treasurer Bob White and Secretary Lisa Rickenberg being present.

  The chair called the meeting to order at 6:15 pm.

  Board members Andrew Dickens, Robert White, Lisa Rickenberg, Scott Gardner, and Gin Daniel were in attendance. Ari Chagoya was in attendance after 6:21 pm. Absent: Roberto Plata.

  Also present were Ken Garson, Board Parliamentarian, Thomas Durnin, Gloria Perez-Walker, Curt Jones, Gary Dickerson, Carol Hayman, Katherine Tanney, and Matt Daley.

  Ari arrived at 6:21 pm.


  The Board discussed the situation regarding Eduardo Vera and Eugenio Onesco.

  Gin moved that Eduardo Vera and Eugenio Onesco be removed as members of KOOP, effective immediately as authorized by Section 2.8 of the bylaws.

  The motion was adopted by a vote of 5 in favor, 0 against (1 abstaining)

  Andrew moved that Eduardo Vera and Eugenio Onesco be banned from KOOP property and events, and that the corporation will enforce this action with appropriate legal notice and enforcement, effective immediately.

  The motion was adopted by a vote of 5 in favor, 0 against (1 abstaining)

Who is on the Board of Trustees?

The Board of Trustees members we seek to recall are:

  • Teresa Taylor (President)
  • Mac McKaskle (Treasurer)
  • Carol Hayman (Secretary)

Gavino Fernandez was already removed as a trustee by the rest of the board for failing to attend board meetings. {Postscript: Fernandez was arrested in May 2003 and charged with DWI, possession of cocaine, and aggravated assault, and was unable to make bail because of a previous contempt of court charge.] Donna Hoffman resigned from her trustee position on Oct. 30, 1998. After we took the trustees to court on 1/4/99, a judge ordered that the board accept two new temporary trustees selected by Friends of KOOP. We selected John Duncan and Vickie Benitez, but Vickie Benitez resigned almost immediately due to other commitments. We selected Michael Zakes to replace her. In March 1999, the new Community Board replaced the three trustees whose terms had expired (John Duncan, Michael Zakes, and Aida Franco) with Diana Castañeda, Hannah Riddering, and Glen Riley.

On this site we refer to the Board of Trustees as both "the trustees" and "the board". When referring to board, we refer to the board sitting at the time a particular incident occurred, so in most cases this doesn't include the three newest trustees -- although many of us have our doubts about Glen Riley.

Many of our grievances also concern Eduardo Vera and Paul Odekirk, who support the trustees and who have slandered us and lied blatantly in an effort to undermine our credibility and hold onto their power. Eduardo and Paul are both members of the Community Board, which elects the Board of Trustees. In fact, Eduardo was the chair of the Community Board, and is married to board president Teresa Taylor.

Background Information

We hope you will read some of the information on this site which explains in detail why we feel it's time for new station leadership. And if you've heard some of the bizarre charges against us, then we hope you'll check out our response to those allegations.

Here's how you can help our effort.

Don't take our word for it

We know, we know -- why should you believe us over the trustees? It's a fair question, and we have several good answers:

  1. We're not the only ones saying this! The local media has also identified the failures of KOOP's board of trustees.
  2. A huge chunk of the community agrees with us. Read what some of them have to say. The board's support, on the other hand, is limited mostly to themselves and a tiny handful of others.
  3. The courts agree that the issues we're concerned about are worth pursuing. A local judge denied the board's attempt to have our lawsuit dismissed.
  4. We've taken an inordinate amount of time and trouble to document our grievances on this site and to respond to the allegations against us. Why hasn't the board done the same? Because their actions are indefensible. Check out the KOOP's official website -- there's not even any MENTION of the controversy, much less the lawsuit!

(Approx. 2200 visitors from 7/27/98 - 2/4/99.
Averaging 120 visitors a month in 7-99)