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Report: Politics may have influenced former public broadcasting chief



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The former chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting overstepped his bounds in several areas, including initiating contracts without the board's approval, and may have let politics have a hand in picking a new board president, according to a report released Tuesday by the corporation's inspector general.

Kenneth Tomlinson resigned from the board November 3 amid mounting criticism.

"While our review found no evidence that personnel decisions were based solely on 'political tests,' we did find evidence that politics may have influenced some decisions," said the report, which the board saw in draft form earlier this month.

"Specifically, we identified e-mails between the former chairman and staff in the Executive Office of the President that, while cryptic in nature, their timing and subject matter gives the appearance that the former chairman was strongly motivated by political considerations in filling the president/CEO position," the report said.

Patricia Harrison, former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, was named to the post to replace Kathleen Cox, who resigned in April after learning her contract would not be extended past its July termination date.

In a tersely worded response attached to the report, Tomlinson accused Inspector General Kenneth Konz of opting "for politics over good judgment" and using "New Age rhetoric and 1960s-era encounter group ideology" to make his arguments.

"Any suggestion by Mr. Konz that I violated my fiduciary duties, the Director's Code of Ethics or relevant statutory provisions is malicious and irresponsible," Tomlinson said. "All of my actions were open, lawful, and were taken after consulting and receiving advice from CPB's general counsel, its president, or the CPB board of Directors."

No evidence of consultations

But in several matters, including the hiring of consultants to evaluate public television programs and allowing consultants to begin work before their contracts were executed, the report said inspectors "found no evidence" that Tomlinson had consulted the board, as required.

Cox's attorney, Debra Katz, wrote that her client had assumed the entire board had been consulted on some of those matters, but later learned that the three conservative board members were the only members Tomlinson, also a conservative, had consulted.

Specifically, Katz wrote that Tomlinson said it was "stupid" for Cox to have attempted to contact board members before her first board meeting in September 2004 and "berated Ms. Cox for attempting to communicate with individual members of the board without his prior approval."

"This ... obviously interfered with Ms. Cox's ability to address all matters directly with the board, as opposed to through Mr. Tomlinson," Katz wrote. "It also allowed Mr. Tomlinson to direct and apparently distort the flow of information to the board and provide what appears now to be false assurances to Ms. Cox that the board was properly informed about his activities."

Content review faulted

Tomlinson came under fire from some members of Congress and liberal groups when he initiated a review, without establishing criteria for that review -- another problem uncovered by the report -- of public affairs programs that allegedly had a liberal viewpoint.

He withdrew the review, however, after the public television network established two new shows with a conservative view.

The report, however, found that Tomlinson may have exerted undue influence over the creation of "The Journal Editorial Report," having prior contact with the eventual host of the program and admonishing staff "not to interfere with his deal to bring a balancing program to PBS."

The board, in its response to the report, said that Tomlinson's resignation left moot "the need for the board to respond in detail to particular allegations concerning his actions."

The report found many of the problems were the result of "serious weaknesses in the corporate governance system" and had 17 recommendations to correct the problems. In its letter, the board indicated it was developing strategies to implement the eight of those under their purview and had directed management to study the nine that fell under management's domain.

The CPB's five board members are chosen by the president.

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