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Published in Nonprofits

GR Community Media Center begins ‘new chapter’ after naming next executive director

BY Monday, August 29, 2022 04:39pm

GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids Community Media Center will start a “new chapter” under a new executive director following months of internal dissension involving previous leadership. 

The nonprofit — which oversees the operations of WYCE-FM, the Wealthy Theatre, public access television station GRTV and community news outlet The Rapidian — has named Starla McDermott as its new executive director. She starts in the position on Sept. 1.

Starla McDermott. COURTESY PHOTO

McDermott is an outside hire for the GRCMC who previously served more than six years as development director at Guiding Light Mission Inc. as it transitioned from a traditional homeless shelter to a program-based nonprofit that helps people recover from addiction and return to work. McDermott also worked in the nonprofit sector with Junior Achievement of Michigan Great Lakes and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

GRCMC officials noted McDermott’s fundraising skills and ability to grow a donor base while serving in the nonprofit space.

“We are delighted to welcome Starla as our new executive director,” GRCMC Board Chair Jason Wheeler said in a statement. “She brings an exceptional package of skills, experience and integrity that will serve our team and our organization well at this time.

“We are excited to begin this new chapter of the Community Media Center under Starla’s leadership. We are grateful to our team for coming together to support our continued commitment to creating a barrier-free resource of free speech and expression at a time when it is needed most.”

McDermott takes over the GRCMC from former Executive Director Linda Gellasch, who was the subject of allegations from multiple former GRCMC employees and board members who came forward last year with claims that spanned roughly six years. Specifically, the claims involved Gellasch’s direct oversight of budgets and donor relationships that former employees say had been handled by GRCMC program directors in the past.

The allegations led to both internal and external investigations into the organization, both of which found no wrongdoing on the part of leadership. A third-party investigation launched last year by the GRCMC board and completed in early 2022 found no evidence of “board negligence or of financial improprieties” following claims by former staff and board members. Attorneys at Warner Norcross + Judd LLP verbally presented the investigation’s findings to the GRCMC board, but a written report or summary was never completed in part because of concerns over potential future litigation.

Prior to the conclusion of the third-party investigation, Gellasch had also stated that she planned to retire from the organization this summer after 20 years at the GRCMC.

Established in 1980, the GRCMC has served to provide community media across various platforms, and also provides an I.T. and Media Services Center to other local nonprofits and community members.

“I am humbled and excited to step into this leadership role with the Community Media Center, an organization I have admired and worked with during my time at Guiding Light,” McDermott said in a statement. “Freedom of speech and access to information are critical to the success and advancement of our community, our country and our democracy.

“I believe wholeheartedly in the Community Center’s mission to build community through media. I look forward to learning from and partnering with its amazing team as we work to elevate and expand the Center’s programming and reach.”

CLARIFICATION: This story has been clarified to say that a law firm’s third-party investigation into Grand Rapids Community Media Center leadership was previously presented to GRCMC board members in verbal form.

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Read 1563 times Last modified on Tuesday, 30 August 2022 10:14
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