Valley PBS fined, must repay $300K in federal grant money following audit of Fresno station

Valley PBS, the Fresno public television station that receives federal grant monies, announced it must pay close to a $40,000 fine and repay $300,000.

An audit conducted by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting discovered the station overstated its revenue and failed to complete required financial and employment reports.

As a result, Valley PBS, which is also known as KVPT Channel 18, was fined $38,946 and must repay $300,000 in federal grant money.

Valley PBS president and CEO Jeff Aiello attributed the findings as “several errors and misconduct-in practices by former station management.”

The audit examined operations and financial reporting from July 2019-June 2021. Aiello took over in May 2021.

“Most of the issues revolved around a lack of understanding of the rules set forth by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), over-reporting of non-Federal funds, and basic accounting and business practices that lacked the transparency and detail needed by the CPB to fully access the Community Service Grant (CSG) award,” Aiello said. “As I’ve said to our friends at the CPB in charge of this audit, I’m personally thankful Valley PBS went through this process.

“It needed to happen. Weak management and outdated business practices needed the full focus of an audit like this to get Valley PBS back on the right track.”

In the audit dated Jan. 26, the CPB’s Office of the Inspector General said Valley PBS overstated the amount of financial support it received from non-federal sources, such as from memberships and donations, by $1,684,901.

The CPB uses this figure to determine how much Community Services Grant money to give the station, which it said resulted in an overpayment of $214,340 for the two fiscal years 2019-20 and 2020-21.

The audit also found the station failed to complete other requirements to receive the grant money, such as reports for audited financial statements, employment statistics and hiring information, as well as posting a publicly available diversity statement and following required practices for discrete accounting and harassment prevention.

It was unclear if the audit findings would cause the station to receive less federal funding in the future. Or if the station’s corrective actions would suffice to continue to receive the full, typical amount of $900,000 per year.

Aiello said Valley PBS plans to pay the fines by the end of the year and that the money will be withheld from the 2023 Community Service Grant — and not from viewer donations.

Also as part of corrective actions, the station plans to outsource main financial accounting to ensure proper compliance in business practices and in financial reporting.

“While this was a difficult chapter in the history of Valley PBS, it was long needed,” Aiello said. “The CPB has embraced our corrective measures and is appreciative of our management team’s transparency and desire to make Valley PBS the best it can be.”

Valley PBS, the only licensed public television station in the San Joaquin Valley, shows nation PBS content such as popular children’s programming like “Curious George” and “Sesame Street.”

The station also produces and airs programming that highlights life in the central San Joaquin Valley, including the flagship agricultural series “American Grown: My Job Depends on Ag.”