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AETN Foundation Lawyers UpLock Icon

2 min read

Lawyers are talking and meetings are set in the power struggle between the Arkansas Educational Telecommunications Network and its nonprofit fundraising arm, the AETN Foundation.

The foundation has retained Little Rock employment lawyer Carolyn Witherspoon and set a board meeting for tomorrow.

As the board of a private foundation, members meet in private gatherings immune from the state’s open-meetings law. Discussion is expected to take up negotiations with Mona Dixon, a three-decade foundation employee and COO who was fired by AETN Executive Director Courtney Pledger in February.

That firing laid bare divisions between longtime employees of the state public TV network and foundation and new leadership led by Pledger, who was appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2017.

Dixon has claimed whistleblower status and appealed her firing, saying she suffered retaliation from Pledger after questioning funding mechanisms for a contract with a content consultant, Rachel Raney, who was hired by Pledger.

Dixon, through attorney Melva Harmon of Little Rock, has offered to settle her claim in return for $285,594 in salary (three years’ worth), legal fees, health insurance and about $10,000 in unused sick time. Those terms were listed in an April 5 letter from Harmon to the foundation board’s executive committee. Arkansas Business obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information Act request.

A source close to AETN and the foundation said that the board was expected to discuss Dixon’s demands at tomorrow’s meeting. Witherspoon, who specializes in employment law at Cross Gunter Witherspoon & Galchus, said she couldn’t discuss details.

“I can only confirm that I have been retained by the Foundation to assist them with any legal matters that may arise,” Witherspoon said in an email.

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