Vitriolic Metro East radio host Bob Romanik has been targeted by federal authorities who allege he has conspired to mask his ownership of stations that carry his show.
The Federal Communications Commission issued an order Wednesday alleging that Romanik has been the real owner, even though the stations had been licensed to his late son and then to his lawyer.
As a convicted felon, Romanik effectively is prohibited from being the licensed owner of a radio station. Romanik declined to comment.
A former Washington Park police chief, Romanik admitted obstructing justice in a federal investigation into organized crime and a video gambling ring in the 1990s. He later was convicted of bank fraud.
Billing himself as the “Grim Reaper of Radio,” Romanik is the host of “Kool Killer Kountry Radio” on KQQZ-AM 1190 in Fairview Heights. It is the main station of several allegedly owned by Romanik.
Romanik has been regularly criticized for making racist, homophobic and misogynistic slurs on his shows. He has remained on the air during the furor, claiming his monologues fall under constitutional free-speech protections.
This federal action, however, does not focus on what Romanik has said, but rather on license applications and record-keeping.
At specific issue is the licensing of the stations after his son, Stephen Romanik, died in 2015. The FCC contends that although the licenses have been transferred to attorney Dennis J. Watkins, Bob Romanik is the de facto owner.
As part of the order, the FCC has noted that Bob Romanik has filed campaign records with both Illinois and Missouri election officials in which he identifies himself as a radio station owner.
Watkins now has 20 days to file a response to the order.
This FCC probe into Romanik’s licensing issues began in 2012, when St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern filed a complaint. Kern renewed his complaint in 2016.
Last year, Missouri legislators also called on the Federal Communications Commission to suspend the station’s license and fine Romanik.
This order does not address a complaint filed in May 2018 by Caleb Friz, who had been organizing a boycott of the stations’ advertisers. Friz claimed Romanik incited violence against him by giving out his home address over the radio.