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Station mgr. gets the ax

LaPlace submits $12K bill for equipment rental

July 24, 2013 - For the second time in less than two years, an Oxford Community Television station manager was given the old heave-ho.

On Monday evening, the Oxford Area Cable Communications Commission voted 5-0 to immediately terminate manager Ken LaPlace.

No reason for LaPlace's firing was stated during the meeting.

Following the meeting, all Cable Commission Chairman Melvin (Buck) Cryderman would say about the decision was, "He is an at-will employee. Paragraph 5 (of his employment agreement) states he's an at-will employee."

LaPlace's employment agreement states, "Employee acknowledges and agrees that his employment is 'at-will' and may be terminated at any time, with or without good cause for any or no reason."

LaPlace did not attend Monday's meeting, but he did submit a letter, dated July 22, to the commission. It was read into the meeting record.

"I place in your hands my future," he wrote. "I do so out of respect for your authority and as individual persons I have come to know and admire. Perhaps, it is the improbable attempt to blend ideas and visions by all involved that seems to overpower the reality of our efforts. Simply put, I think my calculated projection of success for OCTV in the long-run spawns more harm than it does benefit.

"Clearly, I will not tender my resignation. I am too proud of my many accomplishments, most of which I predict will last far into OCTV's bright future. So, with great respect I extend my hand to all of you. I trust your ultimate decision regarding my current employment contract will be a solution for all, now and forever."

LaPlace did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The 62-year-old Brandon Township resident began working for OCTV in July 2012.

He was brought to the cable commission by the Royal Oak-based Focus Forward, a professional employment recruiter or headhunter, as part of a $9,000 search for a new station manager.

Prior to LaPlace's arrival, the station manager's position had been vacant since December 2011 when the cable commission voted to terminate Don Huegerich.

According to Cryderman, LaPlace has not done any work for the station since June 27.

The cable commission was supposed to conduct a performance review for LaPlace at its June 24 meeting. That review was postponed because, according to the meeting minutes, LaPlace "was absent due to the birth of his first grandchild."

LaPlace's performance review was rescheduled for July 1, but again, it was postponed. The minutes from that meeting state he "was absent due to illness."

His performance review was rescheduled a second time for July 8 and again, it was postponed. That time, no reason was cited for LaPlace's absence.

All three sets of minutes stated the performance review was to include "complaints" about LaPlace.

When asked if there were any employee complaints regarding LaPlace, Cryderman declined to comment.

In addition to the July 22 letter to the commission, LaPlace left something else behind – a bill for $12,210.

The bill is for the rental of equipment owned by LaPlace's private production company, PVN-TV, Inc., and supposedly used by OCTV between July 15, 2012 and June 25, 2013.

The equipment listed on the invoice included cameras, lighting, microphones and stands, a portable green screen, fog machine and other items.

"Did we approve this expenditure?" asked Cable Commissioner Ed Hunwick.

"No, we did not," replied Cable Commissioner Sue Bossardet. "We didn't ask him to do it . . . We didn't authorize him to do it."

"He does not have a signed contract (for the rental of this equipment), so I say we just ignore that (bill)," Cryderman said.

"Can I make the assumption that he brought in his own equipment to use while he was in the position as station manager and then when he vacated (it), he took his equipment back and he's charging us for the amount of time that it was used?" Hunwick asked.

"Absolutely," Cryderman replied. "That's what's going on."

The only action the cable commission took with regard to LaPlace's bill was an affirmative vote to receive and file it.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to pursue an employment agreement with OCTV Production Supervisor Bill Service, who has 50 years of experience in the television industry, to take over as station manager on an interim basis.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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