PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — For the first time, the word “theft” has been used in reference to questions regarding WTVP’s recent fiscal woes.
At a board meeting for Peoria’s public television station, the trustees were told that employee theft was one of the reasons the TV station needed to get a forensic audit to appease the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which gives annual grants to PBS stations.
WTVP is in the midst of a massive restructuring as questions about improper and questionable spending swirl on social media and in the community. Already, in the past month, nine employees have been laid off, Peoria Magazine has been “paused” indefinitely and the board said they wanted to trim $1.5 million from the station’s annual budget.
The audit is needed, the board was told, as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or CPB wants that done before it gives the station its annual grant. In turn, the station has filed a claim with its insurance company seeking to cover the loss — believed to be more than $250,000 — as well as the cost of the forensic audit which could be costly.
The forensic audit will not be covered and the carrier will only cover up to $250,000.
While little detail has been publicly given by the board, the station or its parent company, board members were told that two areas were under special review — special events and auctions.
This story will be updated.
PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria’s public television station WTVP is cooperating with law enforcement officials who are investigating the station’s finances.
The news came Tuesday, just before a Board of Trustees meeting for the station’s parent company. In a two-paragraph statement, Board chair Andrew Rand said the Illinois Attorney General’s Office had sought records from the station and that he and other trustees are cooperating.
“In response to media inquiries, Illinois Valley Public Telecommunications Corporation is in receipt of a request for information from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office related to WTVP’s ongoing internal review of questionable, improper or unauthorized spending at WTVP,” the statement said. “WTVP is in communication with and cooperating with the Attorney General’s Office.”
The station, Rand said in the statement, has also filed a police report with the Peoria Police Department and is cooperating with those officials as well.
“Since this is an ongoing investigation, WTVP is not able to comment on the matter and is fully cooperating with the Peoria Police Department,” Rand said in the statement.
WMBD obtained a copy of the police report which was filed early last week. The report, which has very little detail, no names and only states it was formed to “initiate an investigation of embezzled funds.”
WMBD has filed a Freedom of Information request seeking more information which the city of Peoria has not yet responded to as they still have time under state law.
Questions have swirled on social media over the past few months regarding the station’s fiscal well-being. At a board meeting in early October, directors voted to slash the station’s budget to 2019 levels — $3.5 million — which is a cut of $1.5 million.
Minutes from a Sept. 6 Board of Directors meeting indicated WTVP-TV was at risk of bouncing checks this summer without borrowing money and selling off some of its investments.
According to the minutes posted on the station’s website, without those moves, the station’s cash position would have been “negative $45,000” at the end of July.
Those revelations came after former CEO and station manager Lesley Matuszak was found dead at her house on Sept. 28 at her West Bluff home. Her death came one day after she resigned from her position at the station.
Her death was later ruled to be a suicide by the Peoria County Coroner’s office.
This story will be updated.