Wednesday 27 January 2010

Community radio president terminates more members, threatens another

The troubled Cairns community radio, 4CCR 89.1 FM, that is staring down the barrel of it's second ACMA investigation in under a month, has been caught out again terminating memberships.

Both ACMA investigations have called into question the station's complainant and dispute resolution procedures and also open membership from the Cairns community, practices widely flouted by the former Arona-controlled committee.

Last Tuesday the ACMA announced that it has launched a second investigation, following receipt of damming video evidence from CairnsBlog where president Rodney Coutts and vice president Pieter Blaauw were shown to refuse up to 15 new membership applications at one meeting.

Federal MP Jim Turnour also met with Rod Coutts a week ago, demanding that they stop blocking access to membership, however Coutts can't understand basic English and has continued on his path to destory and divide the community radio for his own means.

On Friday, Coutts fired off two more angry letters, to people that have questioned his belligerent actions over the last three months, since he was elected on 28th September 2009.

Michael Hyams [right] reading the meeting cancelled notice last Wednesday, the second meeting block out in two weeks.

The current ACMA investigation will also investigate claims that the committee has been operating illegally since early October, when six of the nine committee members resigned in disgust at Coutts' autocratic leadership.

"I've got to get this committee under control," Rod Coutts told then vice president and Cairns Forensic policeman Greg Dwyer, who resigned after a series of arrogant comments by Mr Coutts and other concerns about the direction of events, a couple of weeks after the AGM.

Coutts also told then station technician, Shane Wilson, his need to get rid of the elected secretary Donn Corcoran, and his wife, Judi.

"I need to get rid of fucking Donn and Judi, and that bloody Dwyer," Coutts told Shane Wilson in the station's control room. Wilson challenged Coutts about his motives, which lead Wilson to withdraw his contracted services. "Well, I might leave as well," Wilson said.

"You can fuck off as well then," Coutts screamed.

Coutts has since terminated the membership of Shane Wilson, Donn Corcoran, Helen Jarroe, and Judi Corcoran.

On Monday this week [25th January], Coutts sent a letter to Michael Hyams, threatened to terminate his membership of Cairns Community Radio:
  • "On Wednesday January 6, 2010, at approximately 5.50pm you did enter the Management office, walked up to Management Committee member Pieter Blauuw, and physically threatened him with the words. “You. I’m going to thump you.”

    These words were clearly heard by others in the room and they will come forward to testify if asked to do so."
In fact, no such words were ever said that evening. Here is the audio recorded by CairnsBlog on Wednesday 6th January, from 5:58pm - 6:16pm:-

Michael Hyams walks into the office area, and introduces his guest who is attending the meeting with him, but gets told that the meeting is now going to be a closed session until 6:30pm, even though it was advertised in the newsletter for a 6pm start and that "all members and guests were welcome to attend."

"Under with authority do you close the meeting?" Hyams asked Couttss who was sitting at his desk, avoiding eye contacts with the group of members and two Cairns Councillors in the office.

"Mind your own business," Coutts retorted.

He then asked Pieter Blaauw, who was obstructing access to the adjoining meeting room door, that he intended to ask the meeting about the conditions imposed by the ACMA on the station.

"It's none of your business," vice president Blaauw said. "Don't be so facetious," Hyams said.

"We're a group of interested people, with members, who want to be members," Di Forsyth said.

Councillor Linda Cooper is my guest," Hyams announced, "and Councillor Di Forsyth is David Rentz' guest."

Immediate past president John Fielder enetered the corridor, and announced he "had been co-opted by Mr Coutts."

There are a few shocking revelations on this recording...

  • 1:03 Vice president Pieter Blaauw throws membership forms and cash out on the corridor floor. "Excuse me, you can't do that," Councillor Diane Forsyth says. They then knock on the locked meeting room door.

    "We'll let the ACMA know that you won't take new members," Linda Cooper says through the locked door.
    "Can you please accept these membership forms as stated in your constitution?" Forsyth says.

  • 2:45 DOOR IS OPENED blocked by Blaauw and Coutts
  • 2:58 "We'll be letting the ACMA know about you refusing these memberships"

  • 3:03: Membership forms thrown on floor at Councillor Cooper
  • 3:16 "Mr Coutts, there is no reason why you can't accept these [memberships]," Cooper says.

    Linda Cooper pushes through and enters the meeting room.
    Door slammed against Diane Forsyth by Pieter Blaauw, and pushes her with his right arm.
  • 3:45: Councillor Diane Forsyth screams "Get off me. Leave me alone!" as she is slammed between the door by Pieter Blaauw.

    Meeting door is locked.

The audio recording, along with photographs taken that evening, have been provided to the ACMA and Cairns Police. It also proves unequivocally that no such words were said by Mr Hyams. It is yet another lie from Mr Coutts, who has shown a pattern of fabrication over the last three months. His biggest porky was to Sunday Mail journalist Gavin King, when he declared that there were no minutes or records from the former Arona committee.

Councillor Linda Cooper, who was standing right alongside Michael Hyams, with Councillor Diane Forsyth and station member David Rentz, recalls the events on January 6th:

"He [Coutts] didn't acknowlegde us when we entered the office area," Linda Cooper says. "There was agressive convesation, Michael didn't say those words, I can honestly say I didn't hear that at all," she said in response to Coutts' allegation three weeks after the incident.

Hyams says that he was very concerned for the two female Councillors, as Blaauw approached him.

Cooper says is surprised that Rod Coutts waited three weeks to raise any concern about that evening.

He hasn't got any abiliy to deal with this in any other way," Linda Cooper says. "What is of real concern to me is that they are wanting to terminate membership, when Pieter Blaauw's membership is being ignored. If he being told that he will be terminated because of his actions? There's far more cause for that to happen. That's a big question," Cooper told CairnsBlog.

"I can't believe that he is accusing me of alledged brutality when his own vioce president is under the eyes of the police for assualting Di Forsyth," Michael Hyams said.

In the latest expulsion threat, Coutts asked Michael Hyams to attend a "hearing" on Wednesday 10 February...
  • "We request that you provide a written response to the allegation detailed above.

    Please note that, in addition to the written response, you will be afforded the opportunity to provide your verbal comments in relation to the allegation either by yourself or with the assistance of a representative if required.

    We wish to afford you available time to prepare any written response you may wish to provide. Therefore, your opportunity to respond will occur in closed session at 6.00pm on Wednesday February 10, 2010, at a Special Management Committee meeting in the meeting room of Cairns FM89.1.

    In accordance with the Rules, the meeting will be held only before the members of the Management Committee.

    You will appreciate the importance of dealing with these issues confidentially and we advise you not to discuss this allegation, or the process, with any other employees, or members.

You can download Coutts' letter to Hyams here.

The allegation is an entire fabrication.

It was invented and concocted by Coutts and his vice president Pieter Blaauw, three weeks after the alleged incident.

In a bizzare ironic twist, showing how confused Coutts is, three hours before sending the termination threat, he emails the following...
  • From: Rodney Coutts
    To: Michael Hyams
    Sent: Monday, January 25, 2010 12:24 PM
    Subject: Re: Membership

    In reply to your e-mail an amendment was put forward at a Management Committee meeting held 13 January that you had not resigned as stated in the Minutes dated 16 November. It was proposed and seconded and this motion was carried forward.
Blaauw is being investigated by the Cairns Police for a physical assault on Cairns Regional Councillor Diane Forsyth on the same evening. A formal complaint about the assualt was lodged with the Federal MP and the Police within 24 hours.

Three formal complaints have been made to the station about Blaauw's actions towards Forsyth that evening, but the president and secretary have flagrantly ignored all correspondence.

"I'm very disgusted that way this has been handled," Councillor Diane Forsyth told CairnsBlog. "The fact that Blaauw is still on the radio on air and that the president has not even acknowledged letters to address that incident, is awful."

The violence dished out that evening from Pieter Blaauw, was condoned by Coutts, who was standing right next to Blaauw when he slammed the door against Councillor Forsyth's arm and body. He never intervened. Coutts has since rejected Forsyth's membership application.

On Monday, Rod Coutts also sent a letter to former committee member Helen Jarroe, terminating her membership. Jarroe emailed some of the members raising serious concerns about Coutts, after which she resigned from the committee in October.

Coutts cites the Association rules, in his termination letter to Jarroe...
  • "You failed to attend the meeting on December 3, 2009 to provide your verbal comments in relation to the allegation as highlighted in our letter dated November 19, 2009.

    The Rules of Cairns Community Broadcasters Inc., relevantly provide in Clause 8 (3) that if a member “conducts themselves in a manner considered to be injurious or prejudicial to the character or interests of the Association, the Management Committee shall consider whether their membership shall be terminated”.

    "The rules state... Not to bring into disrepute the operations, management, staff or other volunteers of CCBI. Contribute to the achievement of a safe, tolerant and equitable working environment by avoiding, and assisting in preventing, behaviour which is discriminatory.

    At a Management Committee meeting held on January 13, 2010, the Management Committee addressed your membership once again. Having considered all aspects of the allegation made against you the Committee unanimously voted to terminate your membership, which took effect from 13 January, 2010. "

You can download Coutts' letter to Jarroe here.

"I don’t know what meeting he is talking about. I think he must just invent them to suit himself," Helen Jarroe said. "As to 'the complaint' against me, it is a complaint from him and maybe Blaauw only, and spurious to say the least. He is just getting rid of anyone who is likely to vote against him in the future – that is all."

On Christmas Eve, Coutts instructed the station's solictior to write Jarroe a threatening letter, saying that she had probably defamed him in her email.

Over the last three months, Coutts has sent out dozens of letters to anyone who has challenged him or emailed another member talking about his leadership. It's likely that Cairns Community Radio has expended several thousand dollars in legal advice and letter-drafting by Tom Stevens, of O'Reilly Stevens Bovey, the station's solicitor, since the first week of October.

Meanwhile, 30 people will attend the third meeting of the Friends of 4CCR this evening. The group, which includes presenters, members, councillors, a past president and station manager, along with representives from the ethnic communities, will adopt a plan to move the station forward.


Unknown said...

Tom Stevens have you no pride. As a legal eagle you can choose your clients you know ..not just jump to the sound of the cheque on the mat.

Muso Nigel said...

I agree with Howard. Tom Stevens is a legal hack, you've of course seen him pictured in his firm's ads (picture of pig's ass).

He's got a trail of failed clients all around town - it's no wonder he now representing the dregs of Cairns media industry.

Unknown said...

I mean doesn't he have some responsibility to say to his clients that they should be focussing elsewhere rather than spat upon spat and wasting public money..sorry aghh no he is a lawyer I forgot... "Good morning Rod ($75) how is everything at the radio station ($150 *as opposed to station- they always use 2 words its more dough you see) ..oh you need another letter Rod okay ($450) ah you need 5 letters they are all going Rod? ($1750) .. and so on.. God if that's how i had to earn a living i couldn't live with myself.. Lawyers all round are given way to much respect.. They should be made to have a price list at the door of their offices and they need to be graded annually (with an OP ranking) by the number of cases they win or lose and the amount of money they won or lost for clients that year.. so one can judge as to whether they are any good or not.. You could ask 100 people and they would rate more unpopular than real estate agents.. I personally do not use them as they aren't worth the paper they churn their stuff out on.

Worth A Try This Is said...

What a friendly place this would be to be a part of - possibly almost beyond saving......

Unless the ACMA directs that:

* All rejected membership applications be accepted,

* All suspended or expelled members be immediately reinstated

* Membership be open to all applicants, and all applicants paying the correct fees be automatically accepted as members

And, that an adminisrator and independent membership officer be placed in a caretaker management role, and that such persons be agreed to by all parties, and as part of the agreement that their work not be subject to interference from any of the disputing parties.

The Administrator, under the authority of the Agreement established under the ACMA Direction as Acting Secretary, would then set a date for an SGM within 3 months.

Membership applications from those wishing to participate or vote in person or by proxy to be received and automatically accepted/approved (as sted above) until the date of the official notice (21 days in advance of the date of the SGM).

In the notice all positions be declared open, nominations for each position accepted on the night, and elections conducted by secret ballot (counted and checked by an independent three person group)

Then a new committee can replace the Administrator in the management of the association and the radio station.

How about that for an idea ?