The Redding City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to refer the matter to the Charitable Trusts Section of the Attorney General’s Office for investigation and possible legal action.
The $110,000 is how much money could not be accounted for during a review of RCAC’s books for the past five years, according to a report prepared by the accounting firm of Matson & Isom. Funding for public access TV stations (Channels 8, 11 and 26) comes from a small surcharge on cable customers’ bills and is funneled through the city of Redding.
RCAC operated Redding’s public access TV stations (Channels 8, 11 and 26) from 1996 to last July, when the council voted to contract with the Shasta County Arts Council. The transition was hardly a smooth one.
Citing concerns over incomplete inventory lists, questionable bookkeeping and a lack of transparency, the city contracted with Matson & Isom to review RCAC’s records for fiscal year 2009 through April.
During that stretch, RCAC received $350, 086 in Public, Education, and Government Access (PEG) fees, yet a review of its QuickBooks files only showed receipts that accounted for $240,000 in expenditures. By law and under terms of its contract with the city, RCAC can only spend PEG fee revenue on capital improvements.
Rod Dinger, Redding’s support services director, said Rob Keenan, chair of RCAC’s board, was given until Sept. 27, a full month, to respond to the report and possibly account for the discrepancy. Neither Keenan nor Tim Pappas, an attorney representing RCAC, has contacted the city, Dinger said.
Dinger said RCAC’s last contact was in early May, via email, and “RCAC seemingly conceded that they have expended PEG revenue for non-PEG eligible expenses, but they imply they were justified in doing so because Charter Cable may not have lived up to its responsibilities under Charter’s franchise agreement, thus excusing them from complying,” Dinger said in a memo to the council.
“Staff is of the opinion that Charter Cable is in full compliance with the franchise agreement and that RCAC has always understood the City’s and Charter’s position with respect to the legal constraints on the proper use of PEG revenues,” Dinger added.
“The history of RCAC and its handling of PEG fees have been horrible,” said John Dixon, a Redding talk-show host. “The fees are routinely ripped off and we’ve been denied access” to RCAC’s facilities and airwaves, he added.
“Redding Community Access is just exactly that—intended for the community, but it hasn’t been that for a long time,” said Greg Mann, adding that the city has a fiduciary duty to track down the missing funds. He urged the council to refer the matter to the Shasta County District Attorney and the Grand Jury.
“How did the culture arrive to allow this to happen?” he asked.
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.