NEWARK, NJ — The rising tension between management and staff at WBGO, Newark's world-renowned jazz radio station, exploded this week as the station's president and CEO resigned amid allegations that an African-American staff member was fired in retaliation for raising concerns about the station's leadership.
The controversy prompted Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to release a letter he sent to WBGO management questioning the firing and the overall policies of WBGO.
Amy Niles, WBGO's former president and CEO, resigned Tuesday evening according to a copy of an email sent by Niles to WBGO staff and obtained by TAPinto Newark.
"It is with mixed emotions that I have decided to move on from WBGO, an organization that I love and have dedicated myself to for more than 13 years," said Niles, who became president and CEO of Newark's award-winning, National Public Radio-affiliated station several years ago. "This has been a rewarding professional chapter and I look forward to my next challenge. I am proud of all that we have accomplished together for our music and our city. I consider it an honor to have been a part of this tremendous organization."
Niles' departure comes just one day after she fired Josie Gonsalves, the station's former development officer, for what Gonsalves claims was retaliation for her speaking up against Niles' leadership. Gonsalves alleges Niles' tenure as head of WBGO includes a culture of racial discrimination and intimidation.
Niles did not immediately respond to a phone call and text message seeking comment about Gonsalves' firing or her allegations of racial discrimination at the radio station.
"I've been aware that they both (Niles and WBGO Board President Karl Frederic) believe that I've been some sort of ringleader or instigator in organizing the staff, both black and white, some of whom have been there for decades," Gonsalves said.
Yesterday, Baraka released a letter he sent to Frederic over the "tensions between the African-American employees of WBGO and management" with the escalation over the termination of Gonsalves. "I have heavy concerns about the environment at WBGO on many levels due to the station’s impact and presence in my life and that of my community," he wrote.
In the letter, he is asking that Frederic:
- Reinstate Josie Gonsalves’ employment
- Commence an investigation of the work environment and implement plans to encourage a cultural shift
- Evaluate where the issue originates and whether it stems from the station’s current leadership
- Partner with Newark Schools to establish an internship focused on jazz education and development for young people in the city.
This is a developing story and will be updated.