Suits over botched sale of KCSM-TV quietly dismissed

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

The lawsuits over the botched sale of KCSM-TV — in which the San Mateo County Community College District lost out on an opportunity to pick up $140 million — have ended with a dismissal of claims. But the college district and the other parties in the suits aren’t talking.

The story began on Nov. 15, 2016, when the district was trying to sell the station’s bandwidth in an FCC auction. College Vice President Jan Roecks was supposed to enter a bid on the FCC website that would have sold the station for $140 million. For reasons that remain unknown, she didn’t click on the right button, even though she had an expert from the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers at her side to ensure a slip-up didn’t happen.

College officials tried to keep the mistake secret, not even informing their own board for months.

But in the spring of 2017, an investment firm that had provided financing to keep the station running until the FCC auction discovered the station hadn’t been sold at the auction, and they wouldn’t be receiving their 36.5% cut of the $140 million.

Text in lawsuit blacked out

The investment firm, LocusPoint Networks, began preparing a lawsuit against the district. But the district apparently got wind of the lawsuit on April 7, 2017, and filed its own suit against LocusPoint and PricewatershouseCoopers first.

The twist, however, was that the text of the lawsuit was almost blacked out, preventing the public to see what the dispute was about. Apparently, a non-redacted copy would be given to the judge and defendants.

Three days later, LocusPoint sued the district with a complaint that wasn’t blacked out, and it revealed the details of how the district botched the FCC sale.

Now the suits have been dismissed, but once again, nobody is talking.

The Post reached out to attorneys for all parties — the district, LocusPoint and PricewatershouseCoopers, and none returned the Post’s messages.

It’s confidential

The only response the Post got in regard to any settlement was from college district Chief of Staff Mitch Bailey, who said that the settlement terms are confidential.

“We are continuing to discuss this matter with them,” Bailey said, referring to PricewaterhouseCoopers and LocusPoint’s attorneys.

However, if the district paid any money to settle the case, that is a public record. The Post has filed a records request for any documents showing any amounts paid.

What do the district’s trustees know?

“We’re reached a satisfactory settlement,” Richard Holober said yesterday, but told the Post to talk to Bailey to get more information.

Board President Maurice Goodman also directed the Post to talk to Bailey. Trustees Karen Schwarz, Dave Mandelkern and Thomas Nuris did not return the Post’s phone calls on the matter.
Since the lawsuits began, KCSM-TV has been sold to Santa Rosa public broadcaster KRCB for $12 million. KRCB was successful in the auction and got $72 million, some of which was used to buy KCSM.

The station’s call letters are now KPJK. The first K is because of FCC regulations, the PJK has a sentimental meaning. It stands for Professor John Kramer, who was a Sonoma State professor who started the station in 1984 with his wife Nancy Dobbs, who is still the executive director of the the station. Kramer died in 2014 at age 75 following a battle with brain cancer.

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