Haverhill Community Television’s actions to remove Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s board appointee will “severely jeopardize” its relationship to the city, according to a letter the mayor sent last month to the group that operates channel 22.
Fiorentini was reacting to the board’s ejection of Stanley W. Colten as the city’s representative to the board.
“We will take whatever steps are necessary to make certain that Mr. Colten remains on the board,” the mayor wrote in a strongly worded letter to HC Media’s board of directors.
In a live appearance last night on WHAV’s Open Mike Show, Colten said his ouster came after he asked certain questions be placed on the board’s November agenda. “I asked for a list of committees and who was on them and I asked for an income statement breakdown on employee’s compensation and what package they get, and I’d like explained certain questions on the bylaws,” Colten said.
Instead of a meeting, Carol Verny, former Haverhill library director and president of Haverhill Community Television, told Fiorentini in a letter dated Dec. 1 the board “amended its bylaws,” eliminating appointments by the mayor, Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill Public Schools and Haverhill Public Library.
“I think it is a slap in the face to the mayor. I think it is a slap in the face to the city council. I think it’s a slap in the face to the citizens of Haverhill,” Colten said.
The matter became public when Haverhill City Councilor Melinda Barrett placed the item on Tuesday night’s city council agenda. She told WHAV Monday her concern is not just that Colten was removed, but also the city is barred from ever having a representative sit on the group’s board. The city has an interest, she said, considering the television group receives more than $800,000 as a result of the city’s contract with Comcast.
“From the time that Haverhill Community Television has come into existence there has always been a reasonably good working relationship between the City of Haverhill and HC Media. This working relationship allowed me to take funds from the ratepayers of Haverhill and give them to HC Media to conduct its operations. There is no legal requirement that we do so,” Fiorentini wrote Dec. 8. He told WHAV last night he has never received a reply.
“I have severe questions about whether you have the legal right to determine your own board members and to remove him,” the mayor said. He said Colten refers to himself as a “whistleblower.”
During the Open Mike Show, Colten said the station’s “decent talent was eliminated,” referring to Mary O’Neil, director of special media production and public relations, who was laid off last August. Colten said he has been involved with the station as a volunteer for more than 25 years and still hosts a program, “Colten’s Corner.”
HCTV is a non-profit corporation and received $816,266 from Comcast subscribers in 2013. The amount comes from a contract signed by the City of Haverhill with the cable company. The only other money the group received then was $11,183 in investment income. In the tax return, HCTV said it paid $388,682 to employees, including $120,844 to Darlene Beal, executive director.
All non-profit organizations are considered public, and regulated by the Massachusetts Attorney General. As of 2013, the board consisted of Verny; James Cleary, vice president; Jonathan Miller, treasurer; Robert McConihe, clerk/secretary; and Amy Callahan, Thomas Faulkner, Ed Felker, M. Warren Medley and Frank Novak, directors. Colten was appointed later in 2013.
Besides Channel 22, Haverhill Community Television also operates the city’s education and government channels.
To download, Haverhill Community Television’s tax return, Click Here. Fiorentini’s full letter appears below.