Save JAZZ.FM91 wins vote to oust not-for-profit station’s board of directors

Save JAZZ.FM91, the group making a bid to replace the board of directors of troubled Toronto not-for-profit JAZZ.FM91 (CJRT-FM), has been successful.

At a Friday morning meeting at the Toronto Public Library, the station’s donor members elected an alternate slate of board members by a vote of 446 to 435.

In a statement posted to the JAZZ.FM91 website from the outgoing board, chair David K. McGown, said while disappointed by the outcome, the station’s donor members have spoken.

“It has been a tough but challenging year. The outgoing JAZZ.FM91 Board of Directors has always acted in the best interests of JAZZ.FM91 and its Donor Members. Over the past year, we are proud of how we handled all of the challenges that we faced. We are also proud of the award-winning programming that we have produced, the legacy of 10 new shows we’ve launched, the numerous live events and the emerging artists who’ve gained a platform at the station over the past year. We are grateful to all of the employees of JAZZ.FM91 who made all of these accomplishments possible,” the statement reads.

Incoming board includes former Astral, Newcap management

The 10 new board members include communications consultant Brian Hemming, who has been the face of the Save JAZZ.FM effort; Rohit Bhardwaj, CFO of Chemtrade Logistics Income Fund; Christopher Churchill, former president of Churchill Cellars; Dave Cole, founder of Specialty Data Systems (SDS); Pat Holiday, former VP of Programming for Astral Media; Noëlle Jenkinson, an agent and manager at AMI – Artist Management Inc.; former JAZZFM board member Joseph Manzoli, founder of Colourfast Corp Inc., who resigned in early 2018 over governance concerns; Catherine Mitro, a professor in the Humber College Music Department; Lorie Russell, former GM of Newcap Radio’s Toronto stations, who is now self-employed as a consultant; and Bryan Snelson, Vice-president, Associate Portfolio Manager with RBC Dominion Securities. Snelson is a former station fundraiser and on-air financial commentator.

Each of the incoming board members is a station supporter, long-time donor member and/or shares connections to the jazz community.

Friday’s vote is the latest chapter in a saga that began last March when a group of a dozen current and former employees made a series of complaints against station CEO Ross Porter and other senior staffers, alleging sexual harassment and perpetuation of a toxic workplace culture rooted in bullying and belittling.

Following a third-party workplace investigation, Porter, who took over as head of the not-for-profit station in 2004, stepped aside in May and was granted the honorary title of president emeritus, in addition to continuing to host his Saturday morning program Music to Listen to Jazz ByCharles Cutts, former president and CEO of the Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall, was appointed interim CEO. Board chair Bernie Webber also stepped aside.

Garvia Bailey

In the months following, several of the staff that had been part of the group known as “the Collective” were either let go or resigned. Former morning show host Garvia Bailey has since filed a $420,000 lawsuit against JAZZ.FM, alleging wrongful and constructive dismissal. A suit by former production and program director Glenn Knight, claiming damages for breach of contract and aggravated mental distress, echoes Bailey’s claims of mistreatment.

In the wake of the controversy, major station donor Marie Slaight, daughter of broadcast mogul Allan Slaight, was among those who called for the board of directors of the station to be dissolved.

JAZZ.FM’s most recent on-air fundraising drive brought in just $186,000 of its $350,000 goal.