CHARLESTON — Chuck Roberts has been fired as executive director of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
Roberts late Thursday afternoon sent an email to WVPB staff and to HD Media stating that his employment has been terminated, effective immediately.
“The West Virginia EBA (Educational Broadcasting Authority) Board has decided to have the organization go in a different direction regarding the executive director position and has terminated my employment with the organization, effectively immediately,” Roberts said in the email.
“I greatly appreciate the opportunity given to me by the board to lead such a talented and devoted group of individuals,” he added. “Each and every person that works for West Virginia Public Broadcasting has had a great effect on my life and I am better for my time here. Thank you for your continual support and inspiring advice.”
Roberts’ ouster comes weeks after Gov. Jim Justice replaced five of the eight appointed positions on the Educational Broadcasting Authority.
Those include controversial appointments that led to complaints Justice was stacking the governing board of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with political partisans, who as Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, noted, may not be “real champions of Public Broadcasting.”
That includes longtime Republican political operative Greg Thomas and Danielle Waltz, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbyist who has lobbied for Republican issues and served on the board of directors of the right-wing Cardinal Institute, which has advocated for defunding West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
During his confirmation hearing, Thomas said he neither watches nor owns a television, saying he gets his news mostly from social media. He told senators he did not coin the phrase “fake news,” but wishes he had.
Justice also appointed Taylor Hood, an attorney and CPA employed by the Generations Physical Therapy chain, a business owned by Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, a frequent critic of state broadcasters in general and WVPB in particular.
During Confirmations Committee hearings in June, Tarr said the Justice appointments would help balance an EBA that is, in his opinion, “way too far left.”
It is not immediately clear how the EBA acted to fire Roberts.
At its meeting Oct. 1, the authority met in closed-door executive session for nearly an hour to discuss a personnel matter, but took no action when the meeting resumed in open session.
Roberts joined WVPB in 2000, receiving promotions to video production manager in 2004 and chief operating officer in 2016, before being selected as executive director in 2018.
Calls to Roberts and to WVPB for further comment were not immediately returned.