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Eby Lands $70K Consulting Contract After Resigning As St. Louis Public Radio GM

Tim Eby resigned as general manager of St. Louis Public Radio last month but will remain on the station's payroll as an executive consultant for six months.
File photo / David Kovaluk
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St. Louis Public Radio
Tim Eby resigned as general manager of St. Louis Public Radio last week but will remain on the station's payroll as an executive consultant for six months.

Updated at 8:40 p.m. Oct. 1, with a new statement from Executive Editor Shula Neuman and salary figures for Tim Eby

Although Tim Eby resigned from St. Louis Public Radio last week, he will remain at the station for six months as an executive consultant with the same salary and benefits he received while employed as general manager.

The University of Missouri-St. Louis has not addressed the reasons behind Eby's voluntary resignation. His departure as general manager came roughly a month after allegations of racism and racist practices at the station were brought to light.

Eby will receive about $70,000 for serving as an executive consultant reporting to UMSL Chancellor Kristin Sobolik for six months, according to UMSL spokesperson Bob Samples. Eby was recently impacted by pay cuts to those employees making over $50,000, Samples said. That role will end April 2, 2021.

During the 2019-20 year, Eby’s base annual salary at St. Louis Public Radio was $157,560. His consultancy contract was made public Monday in response to a records request filed with the University of Missouri’s Custodian of Records.

Tom Livingston, who was named interim general manager after Eby’s resignation, will earn $10,635 monthly. But his total compensation is not to exceed $99,999. In addition, UMSL will cover Livingston’s expenses while he represents St. Louis Public Radio, including travel to and from Baltimore, where he is based.

Compensation for Livingston and Eby will come from budget lines assigned to St. Louis Public Radio, according to Samples. UMSL is governed by the University of Missouri System's Board of Curators, which holds the licenses for the stations that make up St. Louis Public Radio.

“The bottom line is STLPR’s budget is UMSL’s budget,” Samples said in a Thursday email. “All revenue, expenses, reserves, and everything in between is included in the overall UMSL budget.”

Samples said St. Louis Public Radio also would cover any additional consultants the university deems necessary to “help develop a more unified culture” at the station. He said the university would not, for example, take funds from a St. Louis Public Radio budget line to cover student scholarships.

Livingston will work onsite at St. Louis Public Radio two weeks a month. When he is not in St. Louis, he’s expected to be available for virtual meetings, according to the contract, which also says he will report directly to Sobolik. Livingston’s onsite schedule will be developed in consultation with the chancellor.

In his role, Eby will focus on pending matters and other special projects as assigned. Livingston said in a Thursday interview that he doesn’t anticipate working with Eby directly. If necessary, he said he would work with Eby through Sobolik.

Portions of the contract protect the university from legal action that could be brought by Eby. In addition, the contract says he won’t attempt to be reinstated in his role, nor will he seek employment at UMSL after his term ends.

Prior to his reassignment, Eby was the subject of complaints by journalists at St. Louis Public Radio. They contend that he could have made the station a more diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace. Instead, Eby refused to address discriminatory practices at the station, they said.

However, a line in Eby’s contract stipulates the agreement is “not intended nor should it be interpreted as an admission of liability by Eby or the university.”

In a recent personal essay on Medium, Marissanne Lewis-Thompson, the only Black newscaster at the station, detailed an incident involving Eby in late 2018, when he introduced her to a donor who is white. The donor looked at Lewis-Thompson and said, “I’m so happy they hired someone who looks [emphasis added in original] like you.”

“She said something else about Black people and diversity, but to be honest, I was still stuck on the first part,” Lewis-Thompson said. She said the encounter was embarrassing because the donor had focused on her “looks.” Then, she turned to Eby hoping he would respond in her defense, but he did not.

A group of the station’s reporters and producers, all people of color, described other incidents they have experienced at St. Louis Public Radio, perpetuated by both Eby and other members of the station’s leadership. In response, university administration hired Tueth Keeney, a St. Louis-based external law firm, to look into the claims and produce a report. But 21 members of the staff penned a letter to university administration saying they have no confidence in the firm’s investigation.

The journalists detail an incident in which a staff member was denied the opportunity to have a witness present during an interview with the firm’s lawyers. Nor were the journalists initially offered reassurance they would not be retaliated against, according to their Sept. 17 letter published on Medium.

Tanisha Stevens, UMSL’s vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion, addressed the staff’s concerns in a Sept. 18 email, obtained through a records request. In the email, Stevens said the investigator’s role is to listen in order to gather information and provide UMSL administration with a report and analysis. She said University of Missouri System policies prohibit retaliation against anyone making a good-faith report of discrimination, harassment or sexual misconduct.

Stevens said university leadership will use the firm’s report to work toward “a positive working environment and an ongoing collaboration to fulfill UMSL’s mission to students and the community.” Similar messages were shared from university leadership to St. Louis Public Radio staff last week, according to a tweet by Ryan Delaney, an education reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

The officials said that St. Louis Public Radio had “drifted too far” from UMSL and that they wanted it to be more "aligned financially and organizationally” with the university. School officials have not clarified how the station was perceived as straying from UMSL’s mission.

Many questions remain. Aside from the ongoing investigation by the law firm, St. Louis Public Radio staff members are unclear about what university processes will be implemented to address their concerns. Neither Eby’s nor Livingston’s contracts include a resolution for addressing staff allegations.

Shula Neuman, executive editor at St. Louis Public Radio, said the station's leadership has approached Livingston about bringing in mediators in order to have an open discussion with staff about concerns, but she doesn’t know if the request will be accommodated.

Livingston said that if the staff wants to include mediators, he is prepared to explore that as an option and wants to listen to concerns raised at St. Louis Public Radio while “understanding that there’s a need for immediate action.”

Many of the staff have said on social media that they have been left in the dark about the university’s staffing deliberations and decisions, noting they learned about Eby’s new role as a consultant through a tweet.

Neuman said the station’s leadership was in a similar position. “It’s been disappointing that even the senior leadership team received no communication from the university regarding Tim’s change in status,” she said in a Thursday interview. “We learned about it the same time everybody else did. We are very much in the dark, and it’s a very frustrating position for everybody to be in.”

Lewis-Thompson said through a tweet that she did not understand how Eby was “no longer fit” to be general manager but could remain in a six-month consultancy role. “I guess he’s been given time to as he once told my former colleague to ‘reassess’ his situation,” she said.

Eby’s contract with UMSL includes a stipulation that neither he, nor any of his affiliates, can share details or commentary about his agreement with members of the press.

Some staff members have voiced concerns about finances surrounding the agreements, wondering why staff had faced pay cuts and layoffs earlier in the year, yet two management salaries are to be paid now. In addition, they said there is a hiring freeze at the station. Neuman said Thursday she believes additional staff can't be hired until the law firm completes its investigation.

St. Louis Public Radio management chose to pursue layoffs as a cost-saving measure earlier this year. Neuman said the university-driven pay cuts were a “surprise to everybody.” She said the university, to her knowledge, had never included St. Louis Public Radio “in the financial problems the university has.”

Livingston said he is not sufficiently familiar with St. Louis Public Radio’s finances. He did say that getting a clear picture of them is a high priority and that he plans to share findings with the staff. It’s not unusual for university-affiliated media organizations to be subject to university-wide financial decisions, he said, but a university’s finances are normally separate from the radio station.

When St. Louis Public Radio staff expressed concern about participating in an upcoming pledge drive, Lewis-Thompson said, journalists were threatened with disciplinary action if they did not participate. UMSL’s discipline policy ranges from verbal warnings to, in some circumstances, termination.

In addition, she said, the staff was told that if the station does not raise enough money, there will be additional layoffs. But, Neuman said, the possibility of further layoffs was never directly expressed by station management. She said fundraising efforts are important for the continued operation of the station due to an uncertain future.

After this story was published, a recent email from Neuman was shared with a reporter in which she expressed the possibility of staff layoffs.

“We are asking you to talk about the service that St. Louis Public Radio provides our region,” Neuman recently wrote, after asking staff members to record short segments for an upcoming pledge drive. “If we do not raise enough money, we may be forced to make further cutbacks to that service by laying off more of our colleagues. We’re asking for your help because our audience looks to you as voices of authority and reason.”

When asked about the conflicting statements, Neuman said she misunderstood the initial question. She said she believed the question was whether leadership had threatened layoffs if employees chose to not participate in fundraising efforts, but that wasn’t the case.

“It’s not discussing imminent layoffs,” Neuman said Thursday evening regarding the email to staff. “It’s more just saying it’s a possibility — it’s always a possibility, unfortunately.” Whether additional staff will be laid off due to St. Louis Public Radio’s financial landscape remains uncertain.

When some staff members asked what would happen if they didn’t participate in the recorded segments, they were told disciplinary action would be taken for not upholding their roles as outlined in their job descriptions. Neuman said the disciplinary action would be a verbal warning as outlined in university policy. She said no one’s job was on the line for declining to participate.

Moving forward, Livingston said his goal as interim general manager is to help St. Louis Public Radio move toward a positive future. “The most important thing is to start working with the staff to bring everyone together and to move forward to address the concerns that have been raised.”

Correction: Tim Eby will be making about $70,000 in his six-month consultancy role. A previous St. Louis Public Radio report listed an incorrect compensation based on 2019-20 salary figures.

Brian Munoz is a freelance journalist in southern Illinois. He can be reached by email at brianmunozjournalist@gmail.com and on Twitter at @brianmmunoz.

Editor's note: This story was reported by freelance reporter Brian Munoz and edited by Ellen Sweets, who are working independently, without oversight from station managers or editors. Newsroom editors hired them to cover the story of Tim Eby's departure from St. Louis Public Radio and the allegations of systemic racism at the station.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

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