A battle has been brewing at the station on Highway 411, with NewsTalk operating partners John and Brandi Underwood first filing suit, claiming 50-percent partner Greg Detscher had locked them and their employees out of the radio station, took property belonging to it, and assaulted an employee who went back to get his personal property, according to the court document.
As a result, Superior Court Judge Scott Smith issued a temporary order barring Detscher from the station. Wednesday, the court dismissed that ruling and ordered both Detscher and the Underwoods have the right to run WYXC due to a lease agreement NewsTalk has with Clarion Communications, which holds the station's FCC license.
In his answer and countersuit, Detscher—who last month bought Clarion from former State Senate Majority Leader and current Georgia Public Broadcasting host Chip Rogers, owner of the land and building, for $185,000—alleges financial mismanagement and inappropriate business practices by the Underwoods.
Detscher's attorney, Doug Davis of Atlanta firm Belli, Weil, Grozbean & Davis, said the couple "ran the business like a frat house," alleging the Underwoods paid personal bills from corporate accounts without proper authorization, held late-night parties, hacked Detscher's email and Facebook accounts, and used the firearms they carry to intimidate and threaten him.
On the stand, Brandi Underwood, the station's chief operating officer, said she paid the couple's home mortgage and other personal expenses from a corporate account in lieu of John Underwood's commissions. She said she didn't know the practice was not a "good form of business" when questioned by the Underwoods' attorney, John Mroczko.
Detscher called the practice "embezzlement" when he took the stand. The court agreed there are "questions of financial mismanagement" and the "co-mingling of personal and corporate accounts," citing "all these" Dunkin' Donuts and pizza purchases recorded in NewsTalk's books and alluding to possible "further litigation."
Brandi Underwood also said she and her husband own a number of guns, including at least four handguns and several rifles and shotguns, and they and Jess Roberts, an employee, regularly carry them.
Smith ordered no guns on WYXC premises while the case is pending and that mediation between the partners be set within 60 days. If they can't come to an agreement, Smith said, he would appoint a receiver, someone to run the station for the partners.
While Detscher has the right to manage NewsTalk as the new owner of leaser Clarion, he wasn't in the clear with the court. Smith said he improperly tried to shut down NewsTalk with his purchase of Clarion.
WYXC at this time also has no valid Federal Communications Commission license, according to the attorneys and judge. Rogers held the FCC license, but failed to notify the FCC of changes in ownership and management.
"I don't think anyone's in compliance with the FCC," Smith said, adding WYXC's FCC license is central to the viability of the radio station. "Why is this station operating?"
It's been operating without a valid FCC license since December 2012, according to Smith, who said he has no jurisdiction over the federal agency or federal courts.
Detscher testified he's in the process of obtaining a valid FCC license, but Smith said he had to honor the lease management agreement with NewsTalk and the Underwoods.
Perhaps the court's harshest criticism involved the handling of money. The judge warned Brandi Underwood to properly handle the station's finances, which included an order that no personal expenses be paid from corporate coffers, or she could face a contempt of court charge.
Advising both parties that "observing a code of silence" at the station may be a good idea and promising to punish those who violate his directives, Smith also ordered:
- No property used in the station's operations be removed from the premises;
- Neither party shall do anything to damage the business' relationships or assets; and
- No harassment, intimidation, manipulating or threatening behavior.
Brandi Underwood said on the stand WYXC had lost advertisers due to the "drama."
Smith suggested an audit and said further mismanagement of funds could lead to criminal allegations.
"Y'all have got real differences and real problems here," the judge said.
Tell us what you think in the comments, share your photos and videos, and don’t miss any of the local news you care about—subscribe to Cartersville Patch's newsletter, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.Related Content