Thursday, March 27, 2014

Turning Off The Water and Firing The Lawyer

Berkeley-The Pacifica Board of Directors resorted to turning off the water tap on their national headquarters today, leaving the employees preparing the network's payroll disbursements unable to wash their faces or make a cup of tea until the water flow was restored. The desperate maneuver came from next door at KPFA, where the disputed chair of the board Margy Wilkinson has set up shop with the title of acting executive director once again. The Board of Directors of the radio network, which is under CPB enhanced attention for violating open meetings requirements, is delaying a financial audit, and is unable to re-license Houston station KPFT-FM at the FCC due to the inability to operate at full power, appears to be focused on a power struggle with the executive director and not the rapid collapse of their network.
A copy of a complaint filed with the CA Attorney General by 8 former members of the national board can be found here.
Staffers and volunteer programmers at the network's LA outlet, KPFK-FM, which just lost Community Service government funding for low listenership numbers in the nation's second largest media market, have petitioned for an election to remove their staff representative from the National Board. Their petition can be found here. 
An open letter to the Board signed by staffers, volunteers and listeners across the country can be found here
Wilkinson informed the Board on Wednesday that corporate counsel Terry Gross, of Gross Belsky Alonzo, a prominent and nationally-recognized attorney (his biography can be found here) has declined to represent the Board in any proceeding to assert the legality of the attempted firing or to remove the executive director from her workplace. Gross has not met with the full Board since early February. 
Wilkinson apparently plans to appoint an "interim corporate counsel" and claims to have secured representation for the Board from another attorney, although it would generally require both a vote of the full board and the participation of the current corporate counsel to allocate network resources to an outside law firm. The board can be contacted at pnb@... with regard to the unauthorized use of donated funds. The network's insurance broker has warned the Board about the prospect of uninsurability if the rate of litigation does not significantly drop. 
The Board next meets on the evening of Thursday March 27th at 5:30pm pacific. The special meeting notices only the approval of minutes (the board has not approved nor issued any in 8 weeks) and changing bank signatorys as the subjects of discussion. 
Richard Uzzell, a national board member from KPFT-FM in Houston has offered the following motion to end the standoff between the Board and the Executive Director:
Whereas, Pacifica has been thrown into chaos by the actions of the board; and we are facing a complaint with the attorney general, possible multiple lawsuits and are perceived to be self-destructing in public, and;
Whereas, this will not help our upcoming fund drives.
Whereas, the board needs to put the organization above our factional fights, as just about everyone has told us, and make it clear that we will proceed in the future deliberately and with caution, following sound personnel procedures and with sufficient independent legal guidance.
Therefore be it Resolved, that in the interests of the welfare of Pacifica and our five stations,180 programming affiliates and our archival collections, the Pacifica National Board declares that the motion to fire Summer Reese as executive director is declared null and void; due to the lack of notice, lack of legal and HR consultation, no provision for continuing operations, increased financial risk to the network and confusion for network staff and volunteers.
And be it further Resolved, that the Pacifica National Board agrees to proceed with a system-wide performance evaluation for the executive director per the contract terms and agrees that duly-retained corporate counsel and independent human resources professionals shall be present for all executive personnel discussions going forward.
The Board of Directors is not expected to agree to entertain the motion put forward by Uzzell. 

National office employee Maria Gaite, who is working as the network controller, issued the enclosed statement about the "Shreddergate" confrontation on Monday March 24th, which ended with the Berkeley Police Department retreating after disproving assertions by Wilkinson of a gun possibly being in the corporate headquarters where a six-month old child was with her mother, a network administrative employee, at work.
"This is just a misunderstanding. As you know I just came back to work here in Pacifica on February 16th.The paper garbage for which shredding was ordered has been siting in the Pacifica National Office prior to Summer’s appointment  in July of 2012. Working paper drafts, extra copies of GL, and other items that we worked on for audit and needed to be shredded were not shredded. We were so busy complying with the auditors’ requests and making sure the last audit was done correctly and completely. I and my staff did not have time to shred them ourselves. I ordered a shredding pick-up way back July or August of 2013 but it was not taken care of. As I also left without prior notice, the staff including Tamika and Summer did not want to touch any documents that I left in my cubicle without talking to me first."
"I want to put this in the record. Summer had no idea that the shredding company was ordered to come by this morning and shred the documents that should have been shredded last year It was ordered by another colleague and I was aware of it. I am sure that had Summer known about it, she would not have allowed the shredding company to come by. It was a bad call on my part to allow it to be done in the middle of this chaos. But I assure you that while we were talking to Margy and her group this morning, we were open for them to look at the items in the shredding bin except for the old payroll documents. The old payroll documents had employees’ tax identification numbers that we cannot leak outside the office."
"In the end, the shredding bin were pulled in so as to end all these contentions about the shredding of these old unnecessary documents."
"I would like to assure you and any interested party that in IN GOOD FAITH, we are doing our best to correct the problems that were left by the former ED, the former CFO, and the former Controller (prior to Summer’s appointment). These include insufficient internal control systems in the company, failure to update the books on time, and making sure that revenues, donations, or grants received by the company are properly accounted for."
"Also, I want to put this in the record that we continue working in Pacifica National Office despite all these disagreements among PNB members. We are doing our best to go on with our day-to-day duties, to complete Fiscal Year 2013 audit, and provide assistance to the five radio stations (on top of KPFA’s lack of bank reconciliations since October 2012 – yes that is 18 months behind this end-March). It has been hard for all of us here in the National Office. The pressure has been mounting up. I apologize that Margy’s group had it this morning from one of our team but there is just too much pressure added on her by the requests from Margy’s end. I reiterate that it had been hard for all of us here in the National Office since this thing came down Monday of last week. I am sorry for my colleague who had enough this morning…". 
"I hope somehow this sheds light on the chaos."
Maria Gaite
Interim Controller

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. Pacifica Foundation Radio operates noncommercial radio stations in New York, Washington, Houston, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area, and syndicates content to over 180 affiliates. It invented listener-supported radio.

Tracy Rosenberg
Executive Director
Media Alliance
1904 Franklin Street # 818
Oakland CA 94612
510-832-9000 x303
510-684-6853 Cell

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