Friday, April 4, 2014

Lawsuit Filed To Uphold Reese Contract, Rogue Board Paralyzed

Berkeley-9 members of the current Pacifica Foundation board of directors (Pacifica Directors for Good Governance) have filed suit to try to bring to an end the self-destructive spiral of the nation's first listener-sponsored radio network. The complaint alleges irreparable harms resulting from the board's reckless termination of Reese and succeeding actions, and requests intervention to protect the nonprofit from uninsurability and operational gridlock. The suit requests preliminary and permanent injunctions enjoining the board from continually violating the nonprofit's bylaws, breaching the director's contract and taking further actions absent documentation of properly noticed meetings and the issuance of approved minutes.

The complete text of the complaint can be found here.

An open letter to the Board objecting to the breach of the Executive Director's contract signed by hundreds of staffers, volunteers and listeners across the country can be found here.

At the board's open session meeting on the evening of April 3, 2014 (audio is available at, disputed board chair Margy Wilkinson spent the better part of 2 hours ruling motions out of order. The foundation has already been put on notice by CPB that it must comply with open meeting requirements, including notice of the purpose of the meeting (which is generally met by publicly posting the draft agenda a week in advance of the meeting).  The decision not to post an agenda puts all the Pacifica stations at  risk. The officers  had no answers for board members who asked why motions they had sent in more than a week ago were still not put on the agenda, nor why old business was disappeared from the agenda provided an hour before the meeting began.

In the wake of the resignation of the corporate attorney, who was not willing to defend the sudden attempts to rehire the past CFO and terminate the ED, Director Birden introduced a motion to ensure fair consideration of applicants for corporate counsel and avoid conflicts of interest.  However the board refused to add this motion to the agenda, with the disputed chair voting to break the tie.

Board member Uzzell introduced a motion asking for the chair to distribute a workplace investigation report about the terminated CFO, as she has not let the rest of the board see it.  Wilkinson ruled the motion out of order for open session, even though the motion did not ask  the contents of the report be made public. Board member Lamb made a similar motion, but Wilkinson ruled that was not appropriate either.

Uzzell also introduced a motion on procedures to follow when considering rehiring past employees.  The majority refused to add Uzzell's motion to the agenda.

Board member Kaufman asked Wilkinson why a motion she sent to the board a month ago to set meeting dates for the rest of the year still has not been put on the agenda. Wilkinson ignored her question and did not answer it.

In the closed executive session that followed, the board failed to retain Wilkinson's preferred attorney, Hunter Pyle, a former Siegel and Yee employee, to defend current Siegel and Yee employee Jose Luis Fuentes, and the rest of the board majority, from the Pacifica Directors for Good Governance lawsuit and any other upcoming legal activity.

Satires of the chaotic situation appeared on-air at KPFA (by the Twit Wits troupe produced by playwright George Coates) and slightly remixed, rebroadcasted on KPFT in Houston. and

In a heartfelt appeal, KPFA local station board member Samsarah Morgan, elected in 2012, wrote: "We, the community, are the burnt out parents. And the danger here is that we are tempted to shut down and turn away; and if we do this we risk losing a vital resource. We must not turn our backs – we must not allow the other side’s noise to cause us to turn away from the injustices taking place in our back yard and across our country. This is not a case of two factions who need to “learn how to get along.”  This is a call to community action".  The full text of Morgan's essay was published in the Fog City Journal.

A video interview with Reese shot on March 31, 2014 at the Pacifica headquarters can be seen here. Reese was also interviewed on WBAI's Off The Hook on April 2nd.

When Reese left the national headquarters on April 3rd to assist with the legal initiative, some board and staff members attempted to obstruct national office operations, but 22 community members responded to a call for assistance. Reese re-entered her workplace at 3:30 in the afternoon without incident. Berkeley songwriter Vic Sadot penned a tune for the occasion, sung to the melody of "We Shall Overcome".  A video of the impromptu sidewalk serenade is in production.

A copy of a complaint filed with the CA Attorney General by 8 former members of the national board can be found here.

Disputed chair Margy Wilkinson is reported to have said with regard to Reese's attempted firing; "it isn't illegal until someone says it is".

Reese has continued to report to work at the national headquarters since March 17th.


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.

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