Superior Court Judge D. Scott Smith also ordered the former station managers to return items they took from the station and not set foot on the station property until the Oct. 15 hearing.
“The only party in this case which is apparently financially able to keep it open is Clarion Communications,” he said during a status hearing last week at the Frank Moore Judicial Building. Clarion’s attorney, Brandon Bowen, said the company will now work to seek advertisers for the AM station and bring it into Federal Communications Commission compliance.
Smith told Bowen he was giving Clarion “a free hand” to operate the station as it wanted.
“I expect [Clarion] to act in the best interest of this radio station. I expect them to meet the financial obligations of this radio station, and its operation,” Smith said.
However, Bowen told Smith that Clarion will need “essential” equipment returned from the former managers, including microphones and a production room board. Smith then ordered that all equipment be returned regardless of who was claiming ownership until the October hearing.
Cartersville-based NewsTalk Corp. ran the station from late 2012 until last week’s status hearing under a licensing management agreement with Clarion.
John and Brandi Underwood each owned 25 percent and Greg Detscher 50 percent of the company. However, Detscher in 2013 testified he felt intimidated by the Underwoods and alleged they brought firearms to the station and used the corporation’s funds for personal use. Clarion owner and former state senator William “Chip” Rogers then sold Clarion to Detscher in August 2013 – essentially giving Detscher control of the station. Rogers, however, still owned the station’s land and building on Ga. Hwy. 411. The Underwoods filed suit against Detscher’s purchase after Detscher barred them from the station, and the Underwoods filed a restraining order against Detscher to gain access. Smith then ordered Cartersville attorney Marc Clark to take temporary control of the station’s operations in November. Clark reportedly turned on an uninterrupted satellite feed after being taken off the air June 24 and 25 after the Underwoods stopped operating the station without notice. Detscher recently surrendered Clarion back to Rogers, said a spokesman for Detscher’s attorney, Michael Johnson Sr. Smith said he understood, among other expenses, the station owed $17,000 in music licensing fees. The Underwoods’ attorney, John Mroczko, alleged Detscher told advertising clients operational changes would be made, which dried up revenues. Last week, Smith also ordered the Underwoods and Detscher each to pay $2,000 in the next 60 days to compensate Clark, who had worked as receiver without pay.