to stop the shameful attempt to break up Pacifica
(Please forward this letter to your own email lists)
The threat to the Pacifica Network
Dear Friend of Pacifica –
A “rogue” board faction has narrowly seized control of the Pacifica Radio Network after a hotly disputed (and possibly illegal) vote, which is now being challenged in court. The faction’s stated intention is to dismantle the legendary progressive radio network – in a large part, it appears to me, to satisfy the grudge of a politically connected San Francisco Bay Area attorney.
The faction members want to sell what they call Pacifica’s “weak” East Coast stations, and use the proceeds to “endow” their own stations in California. First station on the chopping block will be WBAI (in New York), then probably WPFW (in Washington, DC), followed by KPFT (in Houston).
The faction trying to break up Pacifica is directed by a California attorney named Dan Siegel (whose employee now sits on the Pacifica board, and appears to be intentionally destabilizing foundation operations).
But Siegel and his board faction are being challenged in court by 8 other board members, the Pacifica Directors for Good Governance (PDGG), who oppose the plan to dismantle Pacifica.
These are the 8 Pacifica board members now in court to remove
A recent article in Los Angeles Indymedia News, by attorney Eric C Jacobson, explains
Siegel’s destructive war against Pacifica better than I can.
Siegel is a former Pacifica National Board member who it appears was forced to resign as Pacifica’s legal counsel for (a) incompetence and (b) improper and possibly unlawful behavior. Humiliated and resentful, he revenged himself on Pacifica soon after by maliciously (and falsely) testifying under oath, during a court deposition, that in his opinion the foundation had fired its Chief Financial Officer because he was Black. This resulted in an unjustified $440,000 judgment against the network. Currently, because of his political activities, Siegel is legally barred from serving on the Pacifica board.
But the recent board takeover by Siegel’s faction permits him to revenge himself still further against Pacifica. He can now leverage his wealth, his law firm, and his political connections to take over the network – and then destroy it. Apparently, he plans to force Pacifica into insolvency, so that it will have no choice but to sell one or more of its stations.
And Siegel isn’t hiding his plans:
In a July 7, 2012, speech to his local KPFA radio board, Siegel said, “There were actual people who would buy WBAI for enormous amounts of money... [so] making that change [selling WBAI] does not seem as radical as it might be otherwise.” And, in a June 7, 2014, article in The Villager, he is quoted as saying he would “sell WBAI to save KPFA.” < http://thevillager.com/2014/
Alarmingly, Siegel’s faction on the board has moved quickly, and has taken steps (see below) that seem designed to force Pacifica into insolvency (something you can help prevent by signing the PDGG court petition at http://www.jotformpro.com/
Here is what the Siegel faction has been up to:
■ Within days of illegally seizing the board, the Siegel faction abruptly fired Pacifica Executive Director Summer Reese, in violation of her contract – deliberately putting cash-strapped Pacifica on the hook for at least $315,000 in compensatory payments for wrongful termination (and pushing the network closer to insolvency).
■ They then removed some of the network’s most popular and progressive programs from the air, which may make enough listeners angry enough to refuse to donate during the next fund drive (squeezing the network still further).
■ The faction is also currently maneuvering to change Pacifica’s bylaws (by fiat) to make itself self-perpetuating.
■ Recently, the faction lowered morale and upset Pacifica staff members (two of whom, I am told, have resigned in protest) by re-hiring one of the faction’s members as Chief Financial Officer – even though that person had been previously fired for incompetence and cited for workplace abuse of female staff personnel. But by re-hiring him, the faction is now able to prevent auditors from monitoring suspected embezzling and audit deficiencies by firing – or threatening to fire – any accounting or executive staff who try to implement corrective procedures. For example, in a recent audit, the sum of $7 million – more than half of Pacifica’s entire yearly income! – had to be placed in suspense accounts because of improper documentation. In addition, $80,000 in cash seems to have mysteriously gone missing altogether on the books of KPFA (Siegel’s station). But the faction won’t release the documentation for an audit.
■ At least one – possibly two – of the faction’s board members have long rap sheets (i.e., multiple felony convictions). Under the Federal Communications Act of 1934, these convictions could block or even invalidate Pacifica’s re-licensing. Yet not only did those board members cover up their felony convictions before taking their board seats, they have also refused to voluntarily step down, even though two of our five radio stations are up for re-licensing this year.
But that is not all.
■ In a 2012 preliminary ruling by the California Court of Appeals, the Chair of the Pacifica National Board -- appointed by the Siegel faction -- was found (along with Siegel himself) likely to have committed a breach of fiduciary duty against Pacifica by diverting money away from the foundation to a private fund.
■ Another appointment of the faction – this one as Secretary of the Pacifica National Board – is currently banned from the premises of the New York Pacifica station (WBAI) for acts of physical violence.
■ Moreover, less than 60 days after the Siegel faction seized control of the board, Pacifica’s corporate attorney quit in disgust because the faction persisted in deliberately violating the bylaws. Guess who got Pacifica’s legal work after Pacifica’s law firm quit? None other than Siegel’s own law firm, thanks to a secret phone meeting of the board -- for which (are you paying attention?) only members of the Siegel faction were given the phone number and allowed to participate. Does this even pass the laugh test for legality?
■ Now that he is once again in control of Pacifica’s legal affairs, Siegel admits that he has already billed Pacifica $25,000 in just the past few weeks alone – which is ironic, since that billing is for a lawsuit precipitated by the actions of Siegel’s own board faction. In previous years, when Siegel was Pacifica’s legal counsel (as well as National Board Member and Executive Director), he may have billed the network for as much as half a million dollars in what many, including myself, regard as questionable legal fees – fees which, in large part, seem to have been a result of his own poor decisions and/or improper actions in those jobs. In fact, according to former Pacifica National Board member Shawn Casey O’Brien,
“Dan Siegel was Pacifica’s legal counsel for years and during his reign [he] cost Pacifica hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, by practicing what appears to be a very self-serving and sloppy form of lawyering.”
Here is a particularly bizarre “Siegel incident,” which demonstrates his willingness to violate the law in pursuit of controlling Pacifica. In the “Final Report on the Pacifica 2007 Elections” < http://www.pacificaelections.
“Regardless of my desire to maintain absolute integrity in each of the local elections throughout the cycle, I was forced to capitulate [to Siegel’s demands] .... I realize now that this was an unforgivable error on my part and that I should have publicized the fact that the Interim Executive Director [Siegel] was using extortion to intimidate the National Elections Supervisor and wrongly influence the outcome of the elections to the detriment of members of the Pacifica Foundation.
“Essentially, Dan Siegel in his dual roles as corporate counsel and Interim Executive Director engaged in threats and manipulation to unlawfully control the outcome of Pacifica elections. This constitutes the highjacking of the vote count....
A few days later, Dan Siegel entered my home illegally without any prior notice, and without ringing the bell, knocking on the door or announcing himself. Siegel startled my wife Marilyn, who was home alone, in our living room and she yelled at him to get out. His intent was to confiscate election equipment and materials .... Siegel had apparently been drinking, and sat in a rented SUV flashing his headlights into our bedroom. Marilyn called the police to stop the harassment. We seriously considered pressing trespass and assault charges, but felt any publicity about the incident would not look good for the Pacifica Foundation.”
For someone so quick to break the law, Siegel is also surprisingly quick to call in the police.
For example, just weeks ago, Siegel’s faction called the police to KPFA, claiming that Summer Reese (the Executive Director they had just fired in violation of her contract) was packing a gun. The charge – clearly intended as harassment of an opponent -- was as ludicrous as it was false, which the police quickly ascertained and left.
Calling in the police seems to be an old Siegel habit. When he was on the board of the Oakland Unified School District (from 1999 to 2006), Siegel spearheaded bringing armed police into Oakland schools. Later, in January 2011, a young Black man named Raheim Brown was brutally beaten and then gunned down by one of those same armed police. But though the policeman (Sgt. Barhin Bhatt) may have fired the gun, it was Siegel who concocted the policy that allowed Bhatt to have a gun on a high school campus. (Will Siegel’s next gift to Pacifica be armed security police at every station?)
One last (sobering) fact. It might interest you to know that it was Siegel who negotiated and signed off on the infamous 2007 Democracy Now! contract that many place at the heart of the network’s financial crisis, and which accounts for two thirds of Pacifica’s debts.
The lawsuit of the 8 “Pacifica Directors for Good Governance” (PDGG)
A lawsuit has been brought against Siegel by 8 Pacifica board members, the Pacifica Directors for Good Governance (PDGG). They intend to stop Siegel and his faction from bankrupting Pacifica and forcing it to sell off WBAI or one of its other East Coast stations in order to survive. (Siegel plans, as he has stated publicly, to divvy up the cash windfall from such a sale, which could be as high as $50 million, between the Los Angeles station (KPFK) and his own station in Berkeley (KPFA).
Full disclosure: I am a member of the WBAI local Board of Directors, so I certainly do not want to see WBAI sold, or the Pacifica Foundation dismantled. But neither do the myriad listeners who have already signed the PDGG court petition. That petition – because Pacifica is legally governed by its listeners – is an important part of the PDGG presentation to the court.
Which is why I have already signed the PDGG petition at http://www.jotformpro.com/
Please understand that the 8 board members bringing this lawsuit are not wealthy. Most are ordinary working people, some of whom live on small fixed incomes. But they have decided to risk their financial security in what has proved to be a costly lawsuit – simply because they believe that Pacifica is worth saving.
To my mind, they are heroes. For even though massively outmatched by Siegel’s wealth and political connections, they fight on -- supported (thank heavens) by contributions from Pacifica listeners who are shocked by Siegel’s apparent intention to dismantle Pacifica. But in addition to being shocked, these listeners are also angry – angry at discovering that Siegel may have grown richer, year after year, by (intentionally or foolishly) entangling Pacifica in a web of unnecessary and avoidable lawsuits, then steering the profitable “defense” of Pacifica to his own law firm. The financial cost to Pacifica, as estimated above by former board member Shawn Casey O’Brien, could amount to millions of dollars.
Whether you decide to contribute to the PDGG lawsuit or not, I hope you will at least sign the legal petition of these 8 brave Pacifica directors at http://www.jotformpro.com/