Friday, May 16, 2014

The Business of Collapse

The Business of Collapse

May 16, 2014 at 4:31am
Berkeley-While waiting for the next court appearance on June 3rd, disconnects between vacuous executive reports and the reality of the grim situation at Pacifica are vivid. A bizarre chair's report professes ignorance about the financial state of the network. It also states the hijacked workplace investigation report about multiple complaints against the re-hired CFO that has been in Wilkinson's sole possession since March 17th, will be released to the board after Pacifica's HR firm returns a call. Wilkinson's contention appears to be a phone call she placed in March has not been returned for two months, preventing her from releasing the report to the rest of the board. The full report can be found here.;s_Report_--_feel_free_to_share.pdf)

To fill in the financial picture for the purported chair and the public:

1) WBAI's antenna/transmitter rental space on NY's Empire State Building is $150,000 past due in rent and the final payment deadline is May 23rd, after Reese negotiated an extenson in April.

2) KPFT's, whose re-licensure application has been frozen since August 1, 2013 will need to apply for a 5th consecutive waiver to operate at less than full power. The station's transmitter is entering the 8th year of its anticipated 10 year lifespan and "cannot" run at full power without risking catastrophic system failure.

3) WPFW has been fundraising for two weeks and has achieved only 15% of its goal, presenting a disastrous scenario for the next few months.

Behind the scenes, hints are being made about "corporate restructuring" of the national headquarters. Restructuring is likely to futher destabilize the accounting system, which has recently had to deal with a year's worth of missing event income at KPFA, a KPFK bookkeeper filling out other people's tax returns on KPFK's accounting computers, piles of unreconciled books, and more than half of 2012 income booked at the various stations being placed in "suspense accounts" by auditor Armanino McKenna, meaning local records did not clearly indicate where the money came from.

A FAQ about the events of the last 90 days can be found here.

An open letter signed by hundreds of the network's staffers and supporters objecting to the breach of Reese's contract can be found here

Reese spent May 14th testifying at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on behalf of Pacifica in the case filed by SAG-AFTRA after Wilkinson gave final approval to personnel changes that had not been signed off on by the union local. SAG-AFTRA had agreed not to file at the time of Reese's attempted firing on March 13th, but reneged and filed at the NLRB two weeks after Reese's termination.

An interview with Reese can be found here.

The court decision, if upheld on June 3rd, may also clear the way for "organizational darwinism" (as the decision to partition the network was described by attorney Dan Siegel) to prevail as the California stations may be poised to throw the weaker East Coast and Texas stations overboard by either withholding financial support or selling off the weaker units to endow the stronger ones, as some board members have publicly recommended.

A satirical look at the chaos at the radio stations and what the future holds amid rumors of a network breakup by the Twit Wits comedy troupe (produced by noted theatrical producer George Coates) can be found here.

New documents emerging revealing some of the tangled history that led to the current crisis. In order to shed light on the path to network breakup; some selected "wayback machine" documents will be released from time to time in order to allow the public, station members and journalists acess to information.

This first archive addresses two very current players in the 2014 Pacifica destabilization. In 2008, volunteer programmer Nadra Foster (who had been with the station for more than 14 years), was arrested violently in KPFA's lobby after management called the police. The event shocked many, and happened a year after the unpaid staff organization was derecognized, a traumatic event for a workplace with a long history of volunteerism. GM Lemlem Rijio sent an email to then-corporate counsel Dan Siegel (now the attorney for the rogue board majority) about a letter signed by 56 staffers upset at the Foster arrest and the preceeding derecognition, which might have provided an avenue for resolving the issue without the use of police. The September 8, 2008 email has Rijio saying "all this because I derecognized the unpaid staff organization". Rijio specifically mentions Voices of the Middle East producer Shahram Aghamir who was newly elected as a staff representative on KPFA's LSB, having gotten the highest number of votes ever recorded for a KPFA staff candidate, as opposing her actions. The email can be found here.

A month later, on October 11, 2008, Rijio again emailed Siegel, this time filing formal complaints of sexual and racial harassment against "Aghamir and co", now expanded to include national board member Joe Wanzala and local board member Tracy Rosenberg. Rijio's complaint said the board members were criticizing her "because she was a black woman", not due to concerns by more than a 1/4 of the station's staff about volunteers being arrested and jailed.

Corporate counsel Siegel failed to disclose or divulge the earlier email of September 8, 2008. The email confirmed no sexual or racial harassment had taken place and Rijio's concerns were about the impact of the open letter on her attempt to land the managerial job permanently and wanting to smother criticism of the derecognition of the unofficial bargaining unit for volunteers. Unethically Siegel proposed to investigate the bogus charges, while concealing his knowledge that they were false.
Pacifica eventually admitted the charges were bogus, apologized to the three, and re-recognized the Unpaid Staff Organziation. Rijio was let go after she was found to be hiding a $375,000 check in her desk drawer for 14 months. Wanzala and Aghamir say a Google search on their names still reveals the false sexual harassment charges against them.

KPFA's Community Advisory Board announced more town hall meetings:

One on May 17th at the Marcus Garvey building at 1485 8th Street in West Oakland

One at EastSide Arts Alliance at 2277 International Boulevard in Fruitvale on June 21st.

A second document goes back to 2005, when news reporter Brian Edwards-Tiekert (and current member of the rogue board majority) left a printout of an email he wrote at a station communal printer. The misplaced email referred to "dismantling the local station board" and "making his enemies responsible for the problems to come" (presumably the financial problems). The elected station boards had been in existence for less than 2 years at the time of their proposed dismantling. The email can be found here.

What has recently come to light is an NLRB complaint Edwards-Tiekert filed claiming he was being discriminated against by the finding of the letter.
Then Pacifica counsels Howard, Rice Nemorovski wrote a scathing letter that resulted in the immediate dismissal of the charges. The letter states "Edwards-Tiekert's charges are simply elements of his political infighting with various members of the board and management at KPFA. He continues to abuse board processes for ends completely unrelated to the purposes of the Act. The factual allegations and legal theory put forth by this party are insulting nonsense".

Years later, the pattern of abusing board processes to prevent transparency and accountability hasn't let up a whit.

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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