Tension surrounding the Arkansas Educational Television Network continues, with a couple of likely public discussions this week.

Thursday, the Legislative Joint Audit Committee will review AETN’s recent audit, which included findings of five “significant deficiencies.” Full details are at the link, but they were:

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  • Failure to follow state procurement procedures on agreements with PBS and a private vendor on the production of a documentary, “State of the Art,” based on the Crystal Bridges museum. Management responded that time constraints required the agency to move quickly to obtain a PBS grant to pay a film company to update a documentary it had originally done for the museum.
  • Competitive bid forms weren’t completed on more than $150,000 in contracts with four vendors. The agency said competing interests were sought.
  • The agency hired special legal counsel without first obtaining the governor’s approval, as required. The agency said this was an oversight.
  • The agency director used an AETN vehicle for commuting in 2017 and 2018 without maintaining the required log and without reimbursement of an estimated $2,864 for personal use. The agency said it was unaware of the requirement, but had reported the use of the vehicle as compensation and was working on resolving the reimbursement issue.
  • There was no documentation for $10,000 paid to two vendors for training. The agency said videos were made of the training sessions.

Friday, the AETN Commission will meet in Clarksville. An agenda hasn’t been posted. However, as David Ramsey wrote on the Arkansas Blog last month,  the Commission has threatened to sever its relationship with the Foundation unless AETN’s executive director, Courtney Pledger, is reinstated as CEO of the Foundation. Pledger and the Foundation have feuded, Arkansas Business has reported, over expenditures, Pledger has wanted to make as she reshapes AETN content. The Commission backs Pledger. The board of the Foundation has lined up on the other side after she fired Mona Dixon, the long-time foundation development director.

If the Commission cancels its agreement with the Foundation, some fear it could provide a means for the state agency to take control of foundation assets, around $6 million according to the most recent tax filing.

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And this is off-topic, but while we’re talking about creative differences on AETN programs: can somebody explain why AETN is still running Lawrence Welk re-runs? He retired 37 years ago and died 27 years ago.