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Ex-chair of public television board quits

Review questioned political influence

NEW YORK -- Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, whose controversial leadership of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's board of directors sparked an internal investigation into his tenure, resigned from the board yesterday in advance of the imminent release of the report, which is expected to contain criticism of his actions.

Tomlinson's abrupt departure -- characterized in a statement as a mutual decision by him and the rest of the board -- came after they met in a closed session for three days in an undisclosed location in the Washington, D.C., area to review the findings of the corporation's inspector general, Kenneth A. Konz. Tomlinson had a little more than a year left before the end of his six-year term.

For the past six months, Konz has been investigating allegations by Democratic lawmakers that Tomlinson broke federal law and violated corporation policies in his efforts to balance what Tomlinson has called a liberal tilt in public broadcasting.

Konz does not plan to make his report public until mid-November. In a statement released last night, the eight-member board did not detail his findings but suggested that the inspector general has concluded that at least some of Tomlinson's actions were inappropriate.

''The board does not believe that Mr. Tomlinson acted maliciously or with any intent to harm CPB or public broadcasting, and the board recognizes that Mr. Tomlinson strongly disputes the findings in the soon-to-be-released Inspector General's report," the statement read.

Tomlinson did not respond to a phone message or e-mail for comment.

His resignation from the CPB board follows what many public broadcasters have called the most tumultuous period in the 38-year history of the corporation, a private nonprofit that distributes federal funding to local stations.

In the past six months, Tomlinson -- whose two-year term as chairman expired in late September -- provoked a heated debate with his aggressive efforts to incorporate more conservatives into public broadcasting, on the air and behind the scenes. He said that he was merely following federal law requiring the corporation to ensure objectivity and balance in public broadcasting.

But Democrats and liberal watchdog groups accused him of politicizing the corporation, which is charged with shielding public broadcasting from partisan meddling.

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