Failed bank robber programming UNLV radio station

greenspun hall
Greenspun Hall, home of UNLV's Journalism and Media Studies program in the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs. UNLV photo.

The Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies teaches students to become the next watchdogs of journalism — something the school could have done a better job of itself.

Last month UNLV’s radio station announced a major format shift that eliminated many of its community programs from the station’s weekly schedule as well as student programming under the station’s new slogan “Jazz and more.”

After a marketing study, the change was decided due to recommendations made by the volunteer counseling services of Randy Fitzsimmons, who was charged with making terroristic threats, threatening the use of explosives, and attempting the theft of $5,000 or more, when he tried to rob the U.S. Bank branch in Lincoln, Neb., in 2016. It was a bluff — no explosives were found. He pleaded no contest to attempted theft and was sentenced to 4 years probation and fined $2,500.

According to court documents, Fitzsimmons owes over $20,000 in tax liens from 2015 to the state of Ohio and over $60,000 in tax liens from 2013 to the federal government.

Fitzsimmons was also accused of faking his death in 2015, according to WHIO TV.

The use of Fitzsimmons services despite his criminal history provoked anger and criticism from KUNV alumni on social media.

“Let’s put this in perspective. This man couldn’t get clearence (sic) to work at a daycare center, but was able to consult a University. Blows my mind. Anyone that had a show longer than his sentence, Should’ve been allowed to stay,” wrote Roy Leon, the DJ for KUNV’s program Word Up before the show was canceled due to the new format.

Fitzsimmons was brought into KUNV as a volunteer radio program director because of his experience as a pop and Christian radio program director in Ohio, and through the recommendation of his wife KUNV’s director of underwriting and corporate sponsorship, Leslie Fitzsimmons.

Frank Mueller, the general manager of KUNV said he was not aware of Fitzsimmons criminal background when he came to volunteer for the station.

“Between our student volunteers and our community volunteers we have well over 200 volunteers at different times so we don’t necessarily run a criminal background check on all our volunteers,” Mueller said.

Kevin Stoker, who was hired last July as the director for the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies, said Fitzsimmons “worked very closely” with administration to develop the new format.

Stoker said new changes were then made with three goals in mind, to increase revenue, to increase audience, and to develop student educational opportunities. 

KUNV alumni claim Fitzsimmons involvement at KUNV constitutes a conflict of interest.

“A bank robber and convicted felon changed the format of the college radio station to help his wife the underwriter who is horrible at her job to hopefully sell advertising for a station that is violating its FCC community and Student licence because it has little student or community involvement at all,” wrote John Slaughter, a former music director for Rock Avenue at KUNV, on Facebook.

Stoker said Fitzsimmons “ran into some problems a short time ago but he got the help he needed at the time and that doesn’t affect what he’s doing” at the station.

While Stoker said Fitzsimmons has not been working with students sources familiar with the station said in his time there he has worked directly with students as their superior.

“People who are unhappy are going to find something to look at and say that that’s a problem but the changes we’re making are based on basic programming principles,” said Stoker. “There’s nothing unusual about what we are doing.”

Disclosure: Jeniffer Solis was an intern at KUNV before joining the Nevada Current.

Jeniffer Solis
Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Think this is a well-written, well-researched article quoting excellent, relevant sources.

    Who wrote the the author’s journalistic vitae? It appears to me to be “diminishing” to throw in Ms. Solis’ astrology sign as a last bit of data regarding her career accomplishments. Completely non-sequitur.

  2. Ms. Solis; THANK YOU for helping to expose this fraud…
    A university-run radio station should structure & model itself with students in mind & honor it’s commitment to the community in which it serves. KUNV for decades has asked for & received substantial monetary support from this community; Ulmer & Stoker have abandoned them. And, who stands to gain financially? Why, it’s Randy’s wife Leslie! Can we say, NEP OH TIZ UM”?
    As for the contention that this ‘variety format’will bring ratings that command ad dollars? This format on public radio has a national average of about a 1.4% WORST in the biz. & it’s not just the music; it’s the complete absence of PUBLIC RADIO content & structure. That rascal Randy took the ax to the Public Affairs programs, & contrary to the contention that this Wonder Bread format will ”develop student educational opportunities”, the OPPOSITE has been true. Fitz’s bloody ax also hacked away at long-running wknd shows like Word Up, Women’s Voices & Neon Reverb so we could be blessed with even more saccharin hits. This was all done without a word of warning to longtime listeners, many of whom are PAYING MEMBERS, or to the volunteer hosts, most of whom have toiled away for DECADES @ KUNV simply for the love of the music and the joy of sharing it with the community… HEY! That sounds suspiciously like PUBLIC RADIO!

  3. The nepotism here is bad, no doubt, and it’s a bad idea to kill Neon Reverb and to freeze students out of the programming process. And personally, I think we have more than enough Christian radio stations without giving them another one (assuming that’s part of the plan here).

    But I really don’t think it’s positive to keep beating the drum of “people convicted of crimes are inescapably tainted and should be shunned from polite society/gainful employment.” How is it relevant that this guy was a former bank robber? He’s not using his position to commit new crimes, he’s not even in a position to deal with money from the looks of it – how is it relevant? It feels like the article (and the justifiably upset KUNV sources it’s quoting) are just using “felon” as a synonym for “bad.” That kind of thinking is not conducive to rehabilitation, and it’s not conducive to a sane, human criminal justice system. It’s authoritarian right-wing nonsense that shouldn’t be parroted on a nominally progressive website.

    • Britt… You certainly have a good point about the CJ system and giving those convicted of crimes the ability to ply a craft, etc., but you have to understand the CONTEXT here (FWIW)… I don’t know if you understand how this played out, start to finish. From faking his death, to robbing the bank, to his wife getting a job @ KUNV shortly thereafter, hubby following her here and how he ‘took over’ @ KUNV (financial arrangement, or lack thereof notwithstanding) and the MANNER & METHOD of the ‘takeover’. It’s just not as simple as you want to portrait it; there are far too many ‘extenuating circumstances’ involved here to just say, ‘oh, wow, you guys just aren’t being very fair in allowing this man a second chance’… It’s FAR more involved than that. I’m all for 2nd chances!

  4. Great article, Jennifer Solis! Information is power as we have just witnessed. We need to see these wonderful programs back on the air! Our community supports UNLV on all fronts and we are not happy with this type of negativity. Our students deserve better! Our great city deserves better! “A moment’s insight is sometimes worth life’s experience.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

  5. I assumed that I would receive new stories of daily news when I signed on to Nevad Current’s email list. Why am I being subjected to headlines and stories that a week or more old?

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