A penalty of more than $422,000 that had been sought from the Nine Network in St Louis by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has been reduced to a little more than $32,000.
After an in-depth investigation, CPB said that the station, better known as KETC Channel 9, had not misspent any funds connected with its lead role in the nationwide American Graduate program.
Instead, the dispute over how the money was spent was primarily an accounting matter, CPB concluded. The story was first reported by Current magazine, which covers issues involving public media.
Jack Galmiche, president and chief executive of the Nine Network, said in an interview that CPB’s conclusions and actions confirm what he had been saying all along about the matter, that it was simply a disagreement over how funds were being accounted for.
“There was no misappropriation of funds,” Galmiche said. “It was an accounting error, and that’s a very different finding than we had before.”
A draft report by the inspector general at CPB in September said that KETC should repay the money because the station did not comply with budget and financial reporting requirements. But a further investigation found that the issue was not how the money was spent but how the money was reported.
“The success of the American Graduate projects was never in doubt,” CPB concluded in its report, and the revised documents support the fact that KETC used the CPB grant funds appropriately.”
In addition to paying the new penalty of $32,053, KETC clarified how it works with six different community advisory groups that operate in a variety of areas such as education, health and the arts.
The fact that KETC has six such groups when most stations have just one contributed to the misunderstanding over how CPB money was accounted for, Galmiche said.
“We have had to make adjustments to the way we meet the requirements for community advisory boards,” he said. “We went well beyond the requirement that is laid out for community advisory boards.”
The American Graduate program involves efforts to support high school students as they work to earn diplomas. KETC is the lead station for CPB in the program, which works with media partners and schools across 40 states.
Galmiche said the station’s work with American Graduate has not been affected by the possibility of repayment to CPB.
“Our work with American Graduate has been exemplary,” he said, “and the outcomes have been outstanding.”