Martha’s Vineyard Public Broadcasting Station appears built on thin air

The rainbow-emblazoned MVPBS van and white dog are often present at Island events.

Daniel J. Adams of Vineyard Haven drives a colorful rainbow-striped van emblazoned with “Martha’s Vineyard Public Broadcasting Station” (MVPBS) on the side, and an image of “the White Dog,” his company logo. Some days, Mr. Adams, MVPBS president, can be seen walking along the sidewalks of Vineyard Haven, his dog and mascot by his side.

On his company website, Mr. Adams purports it is “The World’s #1 source for Island news in the arts, culture, entertainment, and education.”

Although MVPBS claims to be a nonprofit organization, accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), with an FM radio station “coming soon,” The Times was unable to verify any of those claims.

Several people familiar with Mr. Adams through their business dealings described a pattern of inconsistencies, misrepresentations, and advertising purchased but not delivered.

Dubious claims

Even to a casual observer, the immediate assumption is that Mr. Adams is somehow connected to the well-known Public Broadcasting System, or one of two nonprofit radio stations that broadcast to the Island.

In frequently asked questions section of his website, Mr. Adams answers the question, Is MVPBS a PBS affiliate?

“No. MVPBS incorporated is independently owned and operated of Dukes County, Massachusetts, only. MVPBS Inc. is NOT affiliated in any way with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, the American Broadcasting Company, MVP Business Systems of California, or any of their respective network affiliates. MVPBS Inc. is an independent nonprofit corporation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

MVPBS Inc. registered as a nonprofit with the Massachusetts Secretary of State in March 2014, according to filed documents. Although MVPBS states it is a nonprofit, a spokesperson at the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office said that MVPBS Inc. is not listed as a 501(c)(3) corporation.

Neither MVPBS Inc. nor Martha’s Vineyard Public Broadcasting Station could be found on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website that lists nonprofits, or on Guidestar, a website with a database of 2.2 million IRS-recognized nonprofits.

The cornerstone of the MVPBS is an FM radio station. A current post on the MVPBS webpage, which trumpets the organization’s five-year anniversary, promises that FM radio is “coming soon.”

In fact, Mr. Adams’ application has been rejected twice.

In a three-page letter dated Sept. 29, 2014, Peter H. Doyle, chief of the audio division at the Federal Communications Commission, rejected, for a second time, the MVPBS application for a Low Power FM radio station (LPFM).

“Although the [application] states that MVPBS has operated as a ‘not-for-profit, educational resource entity’ since January of 2010, it does not state that MVPBS had any legal recognition under the laws of Massachusetts or clarify what type of entity MVPBS may have been prior to its March 2014 incorporation as MVPBS, Inc.,” Mr. Doyle wrote.

Mr. Adams has also made liberal use of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) logo on the MVPBS website and other social media.

“They are not a BBB Accredited Business, and are illegally using our trademark/Seal,” Paula Fleming, vice president of communications and marketing at the BBB, said in an email to The Times dated June 23. “We will be sending a trademark infringement to the business today.”

Falsified name

Matt Stamas, musician and administrative assistant in the Oak Bluffs tax collector’s office, said Mr. Adams used his name on an application to the FCC without his permission, and that he subsequently ended up in a legal battle with Mr. Adams.

“He wanted me to be the music director for [MVPBS], and he said, ‘I’m getting this thing up and running, and we’re all going to get paid,’ but I never received any paperwork to fill out,” Mr. Stamas told The Times. “It was totally bogus. He used my name to file an FCC application, saying I was his music director, which isn’t true. I wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for the scam alert page.”

Mr. Stamas was referring to a Facebook page, “Scam Alert: MVPBS,” that has attracted a steady stream of comments from MVPBS detractors.

“I wrote to Dan and said, ‘You’re not authorized to use my name on anything,’” Mr. Stamas said. “Then he wrote the attorney  general and said that I had sexually harassed somebody in his organization. So I hired a lawyer, spent $300 to send him a letter in February that if he continues with these statements about me, he will face a lawsuit for libel. The letter was sent to the post office box on the [MVPBS] website, and it came back as undeliverable. I don’t know yet if it has been received.”

Mr. Stamas said Mr. Adams has a history of confrontational behavior.

“He’s been threatening people with lawsuits for libel and things of that nature, saying he’s going to take people to court, but there’s been no action at all,” Mr. Stamas said. “There are people who donated but are reluctant to come forward; I guess they’re concerned what he’ll do, or they’re just embarrassed.”

Several people who spoke to The Times critically about Mr. Adams would not speak on the record for fear of retribution, they said. Tim Hanjian, owner of Eco Island Pest Control in Oak Bluffs, had no such reservations.

“Summer of 2013, he told me he was broadcasting the Sharks games on MVTV, and he was offering ad spots,” Mr. Hanjian said. “I agreed to $600 for the season. Later I find out he’s got nothing to do with MVTV, and that he didn’t broadcast any games.”

Rather than spend money on legal fees to retrieve his $600, Mr. Hanjian said he’s considering a class action suit, given the number of people who claim to have been deceived by Mr. Adams. “At least we have to shut him down so he can’t take any more people’s money,” Mr. Hanjian said. “He’s still operating.”

Martha’s Vineyard Television (MVTV) is a nonprofit community-based public access television station.  MVTV President Stephen Warriner told The Times, “He is a member here, which anyone can be for the membership fee. But we don’t allow advertising. To the best of my knowledge, he didn’t broadcast any Sharks games.”

Support for MVPBS

Mr. Adams did not return calls or emails from The Times. However, an administrator with the company, who spoke off the record and asked not to be identified, called to say that MVPBS is in fact a BBB member and that the company belongs to “a number of business organizations, including the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce.” She also said that the “Scam Alert: MVPBS” Facebook page is the result of one business owner seeking revenge against Mr. Adams. “She’s someone with an axe to grind. I’ve even offered to meet her,” the administrator said.

Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nancy Gardella confirmed that Mr. Adams is a member in good standing with the organization. “Dan joined the chamber last year,” she said. “He went through a rigorous process to be vetted,” she told The Times. “When the allegations were brought to our attention last summer, we checked with the BBB, and there were no issues. He attends events and activities, and he’s been totally fine. I think the person that set up the Facebook page is expressing her severe disappointment.”

The originator of the “Scam Alert: MVPBS” Facebook page, reached via Facebook message, would not identify himself or herself, or speak on the record with The Times.

Correction  July 2, 11:21 am – in an earlier version of this article Stephen Warriner was incorrectly quoted that MVTV does not have sponsored content. MVTV does allow for sponsorships that would be similar in style to PBS, but does not allow advertising.  Mr. Adams has submitted content to MVTV but did not broadcast Sharks games.