St. Louis Public Radio Sued For Racial Discrimination

tim eby.jpg
Suit claims station manager Tim Eby didn't follow up on promotion promise of his predecessor.
A longtime employee of St. Louis Public Radio (KWMU 90.7) has sued the station's general manager and the curators of the University of Missouri on charges that she was passed over for promotions because she is black.

Sherry Hieken, the station's business and operations manager in her 13th year of employment, claims that the stress of not being promoted led, in part, to her undergoing triple bypass surgery in June 2009. Hieken further contends that over the past year and a half she's witnessed white employees at the NPR affiliate receive promotions while black staff members are overlooked.

St. Louis Public Radio is part of the University of Missouri - St. Louis and in recent years has received as much as 25 percent of its funding from the school. In 2008 a Riverfront Times' investigation into station management and questionable finances at KWMU led to the firing of general manager Patty Wente.

Hieken's lawsuit suggests that the specter of Wente's tenure remains an issue at the station.

Sherry Hieken
Hieken claims that Wente had recommended her for a promotion before leaving and that current GM, Tim Eby, has failed to come through on that advancement since coming aboard in January 2009.

According to the lawsuit, in April of last year Eby accused Hieken of attempting to cover up two loans by Wente and told her that the University of Missouri system wanted to fire her. Yet, per the lawsuit, UM officials and station management already knew about the loans so they should not have been an issue.

Tim Eby could not immediately be reached for comment. Neither could Hieken's attorney, Matt Ghio, who happens to be married to a former KWMU employee, Laurie Swartz, who in 2005 blew the whistle on questionable fund-raising practices under Wente's management. (For more on that, see "Grandmas and Pledge Drives" in the 2008 RFT article Radio Active.)

Hieken's lawsuit, which asks for a minimum of $20,000, was filed February 4 in St. Louis County Court. More information as it becomes available.

Update: Speaking on behalf of Eby and the University of Missouri, UMSL spokesman Bob Samples tells Daily RFT:
We have been notified of the lawsuit. It is our policy to decline comment on pending litigation and specific personnel issues. I can say, however, the University of Missouri - St. Louis is proud of its record of treating employees equitably and will defend its position rigorously.

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i'm still looking for the racism in this matter. all i see is she was recommended as the choice for the position but the person hiring did not agree. sounds to me like she feels she shoulda been hired because she is black. if i hada dollar for every time i been descriminated by blacks i'd be sitting on the beach in bora bora witha coconut in one hand and wahini in the other. get real fat lady and only eat one diet special for lunch, not three.


I know people in St. Louis can be narrow minded which is barely understandable (somehow acceptable), but to be ignorant is intolerable. Mike, Chas and djb (too coward to use a first name) ought to move beyond name calling and add something intelligent to the conversation. Allow me to stoop to your level for a second. I can pretty much bet that the three of you are all white males who know nothing about what it is to be black or female. Rising above your level now (try to follow me) - no, I don’t know what it is like to be a white male, but I do see its advantages, which are other men (people in general) listen to you, people in general give you respect readily, you can minimally prove yourself and people will give you chances and clearly wages always swing your favor. So, when a woman, person of color or both stands up to get what is fair, why is that they have to be called names or their credibility is questioned because of color of their skin or their physical appearance? Think about that the next time you call a person fat or “because you are black”.


Her obesity led to her CABG. She should sue herself.


Wow! Hateful, idiotic comments from the clueless and asinine. I hope they get deleted. I worked with Sherry for almost 10 years. I can assure you she performed her job above and beyond and was and continues to be well respected by all of her colleagues at the station as well as those in the University System. She has unfortunately, worked with poor and corrupt management beginning with Patty Wente and the cohorts who allowed her so many years of getting away with murder - Don Driemeier, Reinhard Schuster, and Jim Krueger. The facts are there. Read the previous stories Chad Garrison referred to in this article. Every bit of it is true. It sounds like KWMU/St. Louis Public Radio traded in one evil for another with Eby. It's sad. St. Louis deserves better and they don't have it yet.


I wish I were black so I could pull this bullshit with a straight face.


This gal had bypass surgery because she's FAT, not because she's black. Get over it, honey. How long are you going to blame your shortcomings on others?

Faye Krause
Faye Krause

I am always surprised with people who otherwise demonstrate intelligence and reasonableness to jump to the conclusion that Ms. Heiken or her employer was wrong.The last time I checked, it is up to the courts and not public opinion to make the judgement regarding the appropriateness of the charges. It is surely true that when we hold unconscious biases, we sadly elevate them to the role of logic and fairness, much undeserved. Mean spirited comments reflect the commenter much more than their target. It is most assuredly true that women of all colors and persuasions are targets of derision, therefore marginalized and minimized. It may be there could be real improvement in well being to not minimize others. We are all in this boat togetherrowing together will get us all a lot further, than working to keep your colleague from succeeding. We all know what happens to zero-sum games, we all lose. Let courts settle this dispute, and be joyous that we live in a country that wrongs can be corrected. We all deserve that.Faye Krause

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