This morning, the padlock on the door of 1925 Berkeley Way, the home of the national progressive radio network, Pacifica, was removed so that locked out workers could return to work. Executive Director Summer Reese, who was offered and signed a three year employment contract in January of 2014, returned to her duties this morning despite a highly-contested board vote to fire her for no provided reason at a secretive late-night board meeting.
As events unfold, it appears a confrontation is building at the 60-year old radio network as Reese reports disputed chair of the board Margy Wilkinson who grasped control of the chairmanship via a mismarked ballot) and less than a month afterwards proclaimed herself the new executive director, has brought her husband to the network's headquarters and is confronting Reese and the network's national staff as they try to resume network operations.
About a dozen people are present.
Reese is reported to have said that listener-sponsored station KPFA next door, has refused to release their books which are in a state of disarray, unreconciled since October of 2012 and with tens of thousands of dollars in event income unaccounted for.
One of the bones of contention between Reese and the board has been a chief financial officer hired by the board, who Reese believed to be concealing information, and who was “rehired” by the rogue board after his dismissal on January 2.
Another bone of contention is the stated desire of several board members associated with the coup to sell the license of New York station WBAI. There are unconfirmed rumors of unofficial negotiations between the officers of the new board and a corporate media outlet, although the full board has not been informed.
Former board vice-chair Bill Crosier (and current chair of Houston Peace and Justice Center) commented:
"My biggest question is: With the mad rush to ignore the Pacifica Bylaws and California law, and to terminate the ED with no notice and no reasons given, and with talk from some Directors about sacrificing WBAI to keep from having to sell the buildings and other property of Pacifica stations and to allow deficit spending at those other stations, what's next? It's pretty scary to think abou"
Reese sent the following memorandum this morning from her embattled office:
Memorandum -- Please distribute to staff lists immediately
To: Pacifica station managers, staffers and programmers
From: Summer Reese, Executive Director, Pacifica Foundation Radio
I want to thank all of you for the work that you do everyday to keep Pacifica running.
Recently, we have experienced internal conflict between the board of directors and the executive director. I know that when these conflicts are expressed publicly, it creates a lot of organizational stress and makes it hard to concentrate on your work.
I want to assure you that I am in possession of a signed and valid contract for three years of employment from the Board of Directors and that I fully intend to complete that contract and work with all of you to make Pacifica bright and strong again.
The illegitimate actions of board members have, over the years, created a great deal of turmoil and financial stress on all of our stations and workplaces. It is time for that to come to an end.
The charges that I am going to seek hundreds of thousands dollars are ridiculous. What I am going to do is go back to work immediately and you will join me in doing so.
I deeply regret that the infighting on the board was not kept in the boardroom where it belongs.
I look forward to getting back to operating five precious and much-loved community radio stations. Thank you.
-- Summer Reese
Pacifica Foundation Radio
1925 Martin Luther King Jr Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
Ph:(510) 849-2590 ext 208
Cell: (510) 333-1965
Started in 1946 by conscientious objector Lew Hill, Pacifica's storied history includes impounded program tapes for a 1954 on-air discussion of marijuana, broadcasting the Seymour Hersh revelations of the My Lai massacre, bombings by the Ku Klux Klan, going to jail rather than turning over the Patty Hearst tapes to the FBI, and Supreme Court cases including the 1984 decision that noncommercial broadcasters have the constitutional right to editorialize, and the Seven Dirty Words ruling following George Carlin's incendiary performances on WBAI.