KHSU Advisory Board: ‘No confidence’ in KHSU GM Fretwell

The KHSU Community Advisory Board (CAB) at Wednesday's meeting. Hashtags on the whiteboard read "#BRINGBACKKATIE," "#METOOATKHSU" and "#SAVEKHSU." Photo by KLH | Union

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT STATE – In its monthly meeting last Wednesday, June 27, the Community Advisory Board for KHSU 90.5 passed a "No Confidence" vote regarding the station's General Manager Peter Fretwell.

[Clarification: the initial motion and second was for the CAB to vote "no confidence" in Fretwell. The CAB member who made the motion, Barbara Boerger, later amended it to say that the CAB would pass along a letter from the station community advising the board that it had no confidence in Fretwell. That was the motion that passed. – Ed.]

Peter Fretwell

The CAB letter appears below, along with another letter from longtime volunteer Matt Knight, host of the Alternative Therapy show.

Fretwell has been under considerable criticism from station staff, volunteers and listeners since the May 15 firing of popular Operations and Program Director Katie Whiteside.

Last week's meeting included descriptions of a hostile work environment in which at least one employee said she feels unsafe at the station due to Fretwell's behavior.

Some station employees say they take refuge at the radio station studio in order to escape the oppressive work conditions at Wagner House, a separate building where the station management is located.

Fretwell is on vacation and hasn't responded to an inquiry. Whiteside has declined comment.

More in next week's Union.

The CAB and Matt Knight letters:


To: Craig C. Wruck, Vice President, HSU University Advancement, Dr, Lisa Rossbacher, Humboldt State University (HSU) President

From: Tom Hinz, KHSU Community Advisory Board (CAB) Chair

Subject: KHSU Community Feedback to HSU University

Date: June 29, 2018

Cc: Peter Fretwell (KHSU General Manager), CAB Members

Since May 15, 2018, the members of the KHSU Community Advisory Board (CAB) have received a deluge of communication from community members at an unprecedented level. We have been contacted via social media, phone and email, receiving correspondence addressed to the CAB as a whole and to individual CAB members. Casual meetings with friends, acquaintances, and strangers at public places or events, and even in our work places have led to outpourings of questions and concerns regarding KHSU.

The last two CAB meetings were held in larger venues to accommodate increased crowds of concerned individuals, a significant change compared to the typical attendance at the CAB’s monthly meetings. Members of the public, the community of listeners who engage daily with KHSU and those who support KHSU have spoken loudly, repeatedly, and with great passion with regard to their concerns, the strained relationship between HSU and KHSU, and their lack of confidence in the KHSU General Manager.

The message from those of the KHSU community who have engaged with the CAB in the last month is clear, and the CAB would be remiss in its duties if we did not share that message with those who make the guiding decisions for KHSU. The members of the KHSU community who have voiced their opinion, through the conduit of the KHSU CAB, formally submits their vote of no confidence in Peter Fretwell as General Manager of KHSU, and respectfully requests his termination.

There is a troubling lack of transparency from HSU with regard to community relations in regard to KHSU. The community hopes that HSU understands how important KHSU is to all of us. The listeners and volunteers, in partnership with HSU, have kept KHSU vibrantly alive for over 50 years. Many of us are HSU alumni and consider KHSU to be our most important link to HSU.

Thank you for your time and attention.            


A quorum of the KHSU Community Advisory Board


The Man Who Fired Katie Whiteside

I am writing to add my voice to the numerous letters you have no doubt already received regarding the summary firing of Katie Whiteside and the numerous troubling allegations against KHSU’s General Manager, Peter Fretwell.

First, a bit about myself and what I bring to this discussion. I am a 20-plus year veteran programmer for KHSU and have been hosting Alternative Therapy (8 to 10 p.m. Saturdays) since 2000. I was a member of President Rollin Richmond’s KHSU Task Force, which was convened to develop a strategic plan for the station. I have participated in virtual every fund drive for the last 20 years. I served on two hiring committees for KHSU GM’s – for Ed Subkis - and for the current GM, Peter Fretwell. I have worked in public media (first at KEET-TV and now for Access Humboldt) for almost 25 years.

I doubt there is much I can add to what others have said about the reckless, cruel and completely unnecessary firing of Katie Whiteside. The chickens have come home to roost with regards to this ham-fisted disaster. If one were to deliberately set out to crater a great public radio station, no one could have done a better job than Mr. Fretwell.

Perhaps of even greater concern is the hostile work environment Mr. Fretwell has fostered for KHSU staff and volunteers. His attitude upon arriving here quickly devolved into arrogance and malevolence, with regular reports emanating from Wagner House of violent fits of temper at staff meetings and threats against anyone who “steps out of line.”

The browbeating of staff (and volunteers) has been the order of the day. Morale among the very people who know and love the station the best, has sunk to unprecedented levels. One would hope, with past revelations of John Sterns’ psychological abuse of HSU personnel and the more recent attempts of Penn State and Michigan State official’s attempts to paper over more serious abusive situations, Humboldt State have immediately moved to protect station employees. Instead, even knowing what they know, the University appears to have turned a blind eye.

HSU administrators may be laboring under the notion that this disaster will blow over. As even the most casual observer can see, it will not. Mr. Fretwell has turned himself into a permanent liability for KHSU. A liability which will hang like a millstone around the neck of the station – and the university – until the day he resigns – or is fired. Fretwell will always be known as “the man who fired Katie Whiteside” and for that reason alone will never be trusted by staff, volunteers and many listeners of KHSU. Support will continue to erode, as less and less people find reasons to support a public radio station who’s leadership has behaved in this manner.

I urge KHSU listeners and underwriters who truly care about the station to contact HSU President Lisa Rossbacher. Let her know that allowing Peter Fretwell to continue as general manager is unacceptable. Ask that Katie Whiteside be reinstated without delay. I hesitate to suggest that the community withhold it’s monetary support. Unfortunately, money may be the only leverage we have with an administration that appears to care about nothing else.

Yours Very Truly,

Matthew Knight







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