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Records: WTVP tapped credit, liquidated investments to keep station running this summer without board's knowledge

Exterior of WTVP offices and studios
The board WTVP on Tuesday slashed $1.5 million from the station's $5 million budget and said more cuts are possible if a $3.5 million "break-even" target is missed. It wasn't immediately clear how the cuts will impact the station.

WTVP was at risk of running out of money over the summer until it liquidated some investments and tapped into its line of credit. But board members say they didn't know about those moves right away.

That's according to minutes from a Sept. 6 special meeting published on WTVP's website Wednesday.

The meeting minutes say WTVP tapped $100,000 of credit from PNC Bank and management liquidated $320,000 from the station investment account.

The board's executive committee and treasurer claimed they didn't know about those moves to stabilize cash flow before receiving draft July financial statements. Treasurer Helen Barrick said the PBS station would have run a $45,000 deficit at the end of July without that infusion of cash.

Barrick said then-CEO Lesley Matuszak had claimed in April the station would have $460,000 in cash for the end of the 2022 fiscal year, but the actual total was expected to fall far short, at around $160,000.

Board chairman Andrew Rand said the financial situation required "immediate improvement," and sought to lay out a so-called "leadership-advisory" relationship between the executive board and Matuszak. The executive board consists of Rand, his domestic partner Sid Ruckriegel, Stephen Shipley, and Barrick.

Ruckriegel was appointed to be Matuszak's "supervising representative" and tasked with reversing WTVP's negative cash flow. Barrick was tasked with working with Matuszak, director of finance and human resources Lin McLaughlin, and auditing firm CliftonLarsonAllen to gain a better understanding of "WTVP's expense structure."

Board members also expressed skepticism about the performance of Peoria Magazine, which WTVP acquired from Central Illinois Business Publishers in 2021. Matuszak said the magazine made $750,000, but Barrick said it had grossed $750,000. There's a distinction between the two. Gross profit is how much money a business makes before subtracting the operational expenses.

The board also gave the executive committee the power to pre-approve all fund disbursements before cutting checks or issuing payments, the ability to review and approve or deny all expenditures before implementation, full access to information, and the ability to borrow or liquidate investments up to $750,000 to level out the station's cash burn.

A few weeks after that meeting, Matuszak resigned. She died the next day. McLaughlin has also departed the public television station.

The station's fiscal year 2022-2023 audit is still publicly unavailable.

The board on Tuesday slashed $1.5 million from the station's $5 million budget and said more cuts are possible if a $3.5 million "break-even" target is missed. It wasn't immediately clear how the cuts will impact the station.

Rand said on Tuesday that the executive committee over the past two months had discovered "expenditures and uses of funds of WTVP that were questionable, unauthorized or improper." He said the executive board believes that spending has now stopped. Rand distributed a station press release after the meeting but declined further comment.

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Updated: October 11, 2023 at 2:19 PM CDT
Stephen Shipley is also a member of the executive committee.
Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.
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