The saga of Roger Wahl, a convicted felon who has been ordered to appear at a March 8 virtual initial status conference as part of a FCC Hearing Designation Order, has apparently entered a surprising new chapter.
As Wahl could see the license cancellation and call letter deletion of his 630-watt FM radio station atop Mt. Hunsrick, serving Somerset County, Pa., it now appears that a long-lost equity holder in the FM has emerged — or so the person alleges.
FCC Administrative Law Judge Jane Hinckley Halprin late Monday (2/14) released an Order revealing that the Presiding Judge in the HDO received an e-mail from a woman named Julie Barth.
Barth claims to have an ownership interest in WQZS-FM 93.3, licensed to Meyersdale, Pa.
What does this mean for Halprin, Wahl, and the entire HDO?
First, the Presiding Judge is treating Barth’s email as a petition to intervene, pursuant to section 1.223(c) of the Commission’s rules. And, Barth’s email is being placed into the record of the proceedings.
What is Barth’s “primary aim?” As Halprin explains, it is to inform the Presiding Judge of her alleged ownership interest in WQZS, with the ultimate goal of receiving proportional compensation if the station is sold. She outlines the circumstances of how she came to acquire the alleged interest, along with other details regarding her financial stake in the station.
Barth’s knowledge of this proceeding is limited to what has been reported in local media, and this led to her sending an e-mail to the Commission.
If Barth indeed has attributable interest in WQZS, a whole other series of problems could erupt for Wahl, who has indicated to the FCC that he is the individual owner of the FM. And, as the FCC sees it, Wahl as 100% equity interest holder still stands to see his license revoked due to his felony conviction and related misdemeanor convictions, which have been well reported by RBR.com and media in Western Pennsylvania.
Importantly, Barth did not offer information that Halprin says will assist the Presiding Judge in the HDO. Furthermore, it is not the role of the Presiding Judge to validate Barth’s claim. “That is a matter for private litigation,” Halprin reasons.
Barth’s allegations may, however, provide the basis for enlarging the issues to be considered in this proceeding, pursuant to section 1.229 of the Commission’s rules, if further investigation indicates that Wahl has misrepresented the ownership status of WQZS to the Commission.
How could Julie Barth suddenly emerge, as if this were a soap opera script being played out in real life?
RBR+TVBR has learned that she is the widow of Andreas G. “Andy” Barth, who passed away on January 22, 2012.
Andy Barth was a partner in the now-defunct Target Broadcasting, in which Barth and Wahl each shared equity interest in WQZS.
Did Andy Barth’s interest pass on to his widow? Alternatively, did Wahl simply absorb it? Was their legal documentation confirming Andy Barth’s equity interest in WQZS, or was it a handshake partnership?
These questions won’t be addressed by the Presiding Judge at the FCC, which will retain its focus on the fact that Wahl is a convicted felon — one would could next see a misrepresentation case surface at the Commission while private litigation ramps up.
Meanwhile, RBR+TVBR has confirmed from a local source that Wahl on Tuesday (2/15) returned to hosting the WQZS morning show. It was his first appearance since Tuesday, January 11, one day before back surgery — a matter that led to the cancellation of the ALJ’s pre-hearing conference. Wahl was heard interviewing two guests about an upcoming local event.