Legislators Urge Calm in SOU/JPR Dispute

The ongoing battle between the Oregon University System and Jefferson Public Radio has local politicians asking for more time to allow both sides to cool off. NBC-5’s Craig Smullin explains.

“Everybody wants the same thing.”

Not content to sit on the sidelines, Oregon State Senator Alan Bates and Representative Peter Buckley are jumping headfirst into the ongoing fight between Jefferson Public Radio and Southern Oregon University.

“Everybody wants this project to thrive, we all want JPR as a radio project to thrive, we all want SOU to thrive.”

The Oregon Chancellors Office did an audit of JPR and the JPR Foundation and since has said they did not want SOU or JPR involved in the holly… as it would conflict with University fundraising and priorities.

Bates says the audit has spiraled out of control.

“It was more about what might happen in the future… and on the basis of what might happen in the future we’ve managed to blow this whole thing up.”

Today the legislators, with Senator Wyden and Congressman Walden’s representatives looking on, asked for both sides to end the secrecy and lift their confidentiality agreements… and for SOU to extend their contract with the JPR Foundation for 60 days… it is set to expire at the end of the month.

“What we need now is time to step back, we are going to ask the parties to come back together and have a discussion. We want the lawyers out of the picture.”

As many JPR and SOU donors have gotten increasingly nervous threats of lawsuits have been flying… even individual members of the JPR Foundation Board, who are volunteers, say they’ve been threatened with personal lawsuits.

“That just goes completely against my values as an individual who just wants to help the community.”

Bates said Governor Kitzhaber may issue a statement on the matter- the Governor told us Tuesday that he doesn’t want the issue solved in the courts.

“This needs to involve a mediated solution, we need to keep it out of the courts and keep it in the community and I think that at the end of the day we can work this out.”

JPR and SOU have been in mediation – they will announce the results tomorrow… until then JPR Executive Director Ron Kramer says he appreciates the public support and agreed with the legislators pleas, though much is still uncertain.

“I stood here at the press conference with you and learned a bunch of new things – I don’t really know what my status is.”

The legislators asked that Kramer be kept on during the extension period.

The Foundation maintains that the Holly Theatre project will continue regardless of the rift…

Meantime… we have received word from the Governors office that they support a 60-day cooling off period and have offered a neutral mediator to start the process again between Jefferson Public Radio Foundation and the University system.

THe University System has agreed. no word yet if the Jefferson Public Radio Foundation will.

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