Judge in WCAL case to AG's office: Shame on you!


Last summer, we brought you the story of WCAL, the classical music radio station housed at St. Olaf College that the school sold to Bill Kling's MPR for more than $10 million, and which was turned into The Current. There's a lot of ins and a lot of outs that we don't feel like delving into right now (hint: read the original article), but there's big news to report.

After many months of fact-finding, Rice County Judge Gerald Wolf issued an order on Tuesday lambasting the sale of WCAL in the harshest of terms. After implicitly calling the sale illegal, Judge Wolf unleashed his fury on the Attorney General's office, which is bound by law as the watchdog for all charitable trusts in the state.

Finding in unambiguous terms that WCAL was indeed a charitable trust, Judge Wolf declared himself "mystified" as to why the AG's office didn't intervene in the sale when it was legally required to do so. While Wolf pointed out that the shameful inaction occurred on the watch of then-AG Mike Hatch, he insisted that the beleaguered Lori Swanson's office nonetheless "is tainted with this lapse of duty."

The ruling was sweet vindication for Michael McNabb, the understated but unrelenting Burnsville attorney who has poured in hundreds of donated hours over nearly four years to singlehandedly fight the sale in court. Until now, it was easy to think McNabb, for all the logic on his side--how could the 80-year-old station not, by any rational standard, be a charitable trust?--was howling at the moon. But in a ruling peppered with genuine anger, Judge Wolf praised McNabb's efforts. SaveWCAL, the judge wrote, has been "the only watchdog looking out for the interests of the trust."

We know what you're wondering: Will the school have to cough up $10 million to seed a new radio station? We'll give the last word to the judge: "Now, the Court is faced with a plethora of issues to unravel in the aftermath of St. Olaf's unapproved sale of WCAL and the Minnesota Attorney General's Office's breach of its duties in this case."

In other words, don't touch that dial.