Community radio tensions boil over

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
VideoWATCH: Seniors ejected from fiery AGM as turmoil emerges in Albany Community Radio.

Police were dispatched to calm angry scenes at a Great Southern community radio station this week, which allegedly left a 73-year-old member battered and bruised.

Officers were called to Albany Community Radio’s AGM on February 26 after some station members nearly came to blows over a station leadership vote.

Despite reports of up to nine police officers attending the scene, Albany Police said one car and two officers were dispatched.

Members claim a dispute over leadership had been ongoing for years, culminating in Tuesday night’s confrontation between security and two members, and a protest walk-out by others.

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Mark Mehrer, 73, was at the meeting and said he expected a tense evening when he saw security upon arrival.

He said he could not understand why guards would be needed to control the group, which included grandparent volunteers.

But he did not expect to be evicted within 15 minutes of the meeting beginning – allegedly bruised and with a sore back – after calling to revisit a previous vote of no-confidence in the station’s leadership.

It was the second time such a motion had been raised, after a 47-4 vote of no-confidence in the board was rejected by leadership as unconstitutional in August, 2018.

Again, the vote was refused on Tuesday.

“(The chairman Harold Simmons) would not allow the vote, which is ridiculous,” Mr Mehrer said.

“Other people who took the same view as I did said we should have this, including Phil Dodds, who was told to leave.”

Mr Mehrer said security confronted Mr Dodds, before turning on him.

“(Security) started pushing me, nearly knocking me over – I’ve ended up with a bad back and am on painkillers because of it,” he said.

“The instructions (to security) were if anyone raises any issues other than what’s on the agenda, they’re to be evicted.”

ACR made headlines throughout 2018 after a series of public disagreements, including at least two instances where police were called to the station.

Officers were called to the station twice in August because of angry protests at its North Road premises after the board rejected the original no-confidence motion.

Then, in November former chairman Adrian Marshall resigned after two no-confidence votes against him were raised in two weeks.

Mr Dodds said the ongoing dispute had brought membership down by as much as 60 per cent at the station, which relied on grants and outside funding.

Former Perth MP Ian Alexander filmed the incident, and after a brief scuffle with security was escorted out with Mr Dodds.

Mr Alexander could be heard swearing several times in his video.

“It was extremely heavy-handed to have a security posse there to start with,” he said.

However, Mr Simmons accused his opponents of hijacking the meeting.

“(The motion) was refused on the grounds that no other business other than the agenda business could be discussed,” he said.

“Then all hell broke loose.

“Four times the meeting was adjourned for five minutes to allow those who were disruptive to leave ... or sit down and be quiet.

“Unfortunately this did not happen so the police were called.

“It seems that come hell or high water this group have one aim in mind - and that is to pull the station down.”

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