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AETN Standoff Drags OnLock Icon

2 min read

The Arkansas Educational Telecommunications Network Commission loudly put its foot down in late March, giving its nonprofit fundraising arm, the AETN Foundation, until April 10 to comply with demands in an internal power struggle — or else.

April 10 came and went, as did May 10, June 10 and July 10, but as of Thursday there was no resolution announced in a stalemate that followed the firing of chief fundraiser Mona Dixon, the AETN Foundation COO who had been a fixture in Arkansas educational TV for three decades.

Dixon was dismissed after challenging AETN Executive Director Courtney Pledger on spending procedures and other matters. Pledger’s defenders say Dixon was undermining the boss.

In any case, Dixon has claimed whistleblower status and appealed her firing, saying Pledger retaliated against her. She has retained Melva Harmon of Little Rock as her lawyer, and offered to settle her unlawful dismissal claim for nearly $286,000 in severance plus other considerations.

The AETN Foundation is represented by attorney Carolyn Witherspoon of Cross Gunter Witherspoon & Galchus in Little Rock. “Nothing to report,” Witherspoon told Whispers via email on July 2. She stood by that last week, as Pledger and the office of Gov. Asa Hutchinson did not respond to repeated calls for a statement on the status of the standoff.

After Dixon’s firing, the nonprofit foundation removed Pledger as its executive director after some members were not satisfied with her explanation of Dixon’s departure. In a March 27 resolution, the AETN Commission, a state panel of members appointed by the governor, demanded that the foundation reinstate Pledger as its chief, granting her authority to hire and fire foundation employees and oversee day-to-day operations, among other requests. If these demands weren’t met by April 10, the commission threatened to give 120 days’ notice that it would be breaking its service contract with the foundation.

As of last week, there was no indication that had happened.

In fact, minutes of the last AETN Commission meeting on June 20 make no mention of the Foundation dustup.

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