Berkeley – Ballots mailed for Pacifica’s 2016 board elections from the East Coast on August 15th. Pacifica in Exile’s candidate endorsements for all stations can be found here. You will find online voting instructions inside your printed ballot envelope. The voting period ends on September 30 at 11:59pm in your own time zone. If you donated, but don’t receive a ballot or for any ballot-related question at any station, you can contact King Reilly, a KPFK member who has graciously agreed to assist folks, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pacifica’s National Board convened the first of 3 meetings in the next 3 weeks on September 15th. CFO Sam Agarwal, who resigned on September 8th, provided his last CFO report to the national board. His written report can be seen here. In it he stated: “Under the circumstances, it would be futile to expect that FY 2015 books and audit will be completed any time soon. There is substantial time and effort needed to accomplish this task. Books are not in a shape where the audit can even start anytime soon”. Agarwal also provided a list of payments the National Office must make in the next 6-8 weeks totaling $259,000, confirmation the national office bank balance totaled $1,807, a spreadsheet breaking down payments owed to national by the 5 Pacifica stations in the past 10 months of $490,000 (all the stations owe between $50,000 and $168,000 each, with Washington’s WPFW as the largest debtor) and a list of outstanding matters. Among the outstanding matters listed are:
*Comprehensive check lists have been sent to all stations to remove deficiencies in their accounting / reconciliations / audit schedule preparation. Follow up is needed to get this completed.
*Balance Sheets have not been prepared for last two years. Balances have to be rolled forward to get a starting point for FY 2016 balance sheet. This will be applicable to all stations.
*Reconciliation work is pending for all stations and National Office which needs to be completed,
*Pension contribution has not been made to the Retirement Plan for 2015.
ED Brazon was tasked with producing a “financial recovery plan” by September 12th. Brazon missed that deadline by several days, but finally produced a 1-page memo she described as the “plan”. You can see a copy of it here. The weak plan, which focuses mostly on “getting appraisals” and a vague idea about an “Internet radio station in Chicago”, was blasted by CFO Agarwal and PNB member Bill Crosier as inadequate. Agarwal stated: “I have reviewed the Recovery Plan that was submitted by IED for consideration by PNB in its meeting tonight. In my assessment, it does not do the required job and falls way short of what is needed to turn around the finances”. Crosier stated: “I agree with Mr. Agarwal’s assessment – that Lydia’s “Recovery Plan” is very inadequate, and does not do what we need it to do – tell us how we’re going to pay our bills and continue operations. What we got from Lydia is not a recovery plan. It’s really not a plan at all. It’s just a list. A plan should include responsible people and a timetable for each item – who will do what and by when, with milestones that can be checked periodically so we can see what progress is being made. We still need a financial recovery plan. This is far from one”. You can see their detailed responses here and here. The national board nonetheless endorsed Brazon’s one-page memo as their formal financial recovery plan to be submitted to auditor Armanino and the insurance carrier who recently canceled their liability insurance. For a summary of the discussion, you can listen to an audio clip here.
CFO Agarwal had previously presented a list of short-term and medium-term actions to avert imminent financial collapse. His list can be seen here. None of them can be found in Brazon’s memo.
Since Lydia Brazon has been interim Executive Director (iED) of Pacifica, the financial, legal, and organizational problems have continued to multiply, and member numbers continue to dwindle. Plans for reversing the acute downward slide are nowhere to be found. Sign the petition to tell the PNB it’s time to let Lydia Brazon go as iED.
KPFT’s local station board met on September 14th in Houston. The local Siegel/Brazon majority brought a fully armed police officer with a weapon into the closed section of the board meeting at Houston’s Montrose Center, an LGBT community center. The presence of the armed officer, especially at a center that is a safe space for those often brutalized by police, was tone-deaf to the current national conversation about policing. Board chair Dewayne Lark did not indicate he had discussed or received authorization to bring an armed police officer into KPFT’s board meeting. The session was said to be closed, but board member Nancy Saibara-Naitomi brought her mother, a non-board member, into the session which dealt with the board’s evaluation of long-time general manager Duane Bradley. The Siegel/Brazon majority is campaigning to replace GM Bradley, the longest-surviving management figure in the network. They proposed last year to replace Bradley with board chair Dewayne Lark.
On Friday, KPFT’s biggest fundraiser and one of only 2 paid programmers, Wide Open Spaces host Roark Smith announced his departure, a potentially devastating blow to the station. If interested, KPFT fund drive statistics from the last drive can be seen here. Among Smith’s issues was a long-term unkept promise to elevate his hourly pay rate to $15/hr. Despite Pacifica’s rhetoric, the network has never seen fit to provide pay equity between unionized employees at the other 4 stations and non-unionized employees at KPFT. Smith’s departure as the top on-air fundraiser leaves KPFT in some disarray and represents at least the second formerly stable operation (after KPFK) now facing a potential financial meltdown since the two-year old coup.
KPFT board chair Lark is attempting to call another emergency closed session meeting of KPFT’s local station board for September 20th. It isn’t clear by press time if permission will be granted to circumvent meeting notice meeting requirements and if a sufficient number of board members will attend (or if the police will come this time).
New York’s WBAI has been operating without a telephone line into its main studio since the end of June, a violation of the Code of Federal Regulations 47, Section 73.1125(e). The Federal Communcations Commission New York Enforcement Bureau finally weighed in. An enforcement agent in New York indicated an FCC investigation is in process. WBAI owes Verizon, the landline telephone provider for the facility at 388 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, NY, about $28,000. Verizon finally turned the telephones off for nonpayment. IED Brazon, after being confronted that an FCC investigation had been launched, indicated she was having VoIP (voice-over-Internet) phones installed from Time Warner Cable and she had not informed the national board of the FCC investigation in process.
A large group of WBAI programmers are objecting to program changes implemented by the station’s general manager Berthold Reimers. The programmer petition asserting the changes are “arbitrary” can be seen here. The petition is said to be online at change.org, but a search of that website did not uncover it. The PNB programming committee passed a motion asking for program changes at WBAI to be rolled back. A similar motion passed in Los Angeles asking for program changes to be rolled back *in LA* was rejected with GM Radford stating she was instructed to “ignore it” by Lydia Brazon. Brazon has not commented on whether she intends to send instructions to “ignore it” to NY’s management as well. The new WBAI program schedule can be seen here.
Los Angeles station KPFK recently lost a large multi-grievance union arbitration with the station’s SAG-AFTRA bargaining unit after new manager Leslie Radford imposed unilateral work hour reductions, fired two employees and denied severance benefits. The settlement amount will be in the six figures and will include back pay to approximately 20 employees whose hours were cut , the re-hire of two fired employees and the payment of at least four previously denied severance packages. GM Radford was the soul of brevity, informing the station’s staff : “The Settlement Agreement with SAG-AFTRA has been signed and delivered. The news isn’t good”. Members of the network’s national board have not seen the final agreement after the arbitration loss. Radford repeated her one-sentence haiku on the disastrous SAG-AFTRA conflict she caused, telling KPFK’s local finance committee “it isn’t a happy picture”. Pacifica’s national finance committee had been assured last year by Radford that unofficial corporate counsel Dan Siegel had told her the actions did not violate the SAG-AFTRA contract. Radford is proposing KPFK pay for the labor violations by reducing shared service fees to the Pacifica office by 50% for the 2017 fiscal year, thus compromising Pacifica’s ability to pay for a 2015 audit, insurance, and other expenses. One of the employees terminated by Radford in 2015, the station’s webmaster, was told by the bargaining unit to disregard Radford’s re-hire offer, which was for a subscriptions assistant position for the 11-year employee. The union indicated Radford’s offer was not in compliance with the terms of the settlement. The continued provocation by the general manager towards SAG-AFTRA after a huge and expensive arbitration loss shows poor judgment and lack of supervision of the GM by Pacifica’s ED.
KPFA’s local station board met on September 10th. They were unable to discuss the station’s financial meltdown with general manager Quincy McCoy because he did not attend the meeting. McCoy had written a memo to station staff promising “huge alterations of the broadcast schedule, lay-offs, cuts etc” and said KPFA may not continue as a “full-time operation”. You can read the full memo here. The KPFA local board (Save KPFA) continues to disembody themselves from “Pacifica” as if they have nothing to do with with their parent nonprofit. In fact, members of the KPFA local station have filled 6 of 12 officer positions on the national board since 2014, far outstripping any other station and have direct responsibility for the failed audits and dysfunction. (The other station presence in the PNB officer corps since 2014 is WPFW – (3), KPFK – (1), KPFT – (1), WBAI – (1). You can listen to the public comment section of the meeting here. 4 unpaid staff members and 1 listener-sponsor addressed the board. The listener, who did not choose to give his name, said “he understood the inner workings of the CIA much better than he understood the inner workings of KPFA” and told the station to be more open about their finances.
Board member David Lynch, a SaveKPFA-affiliated member who commutes from the Southern California beach town of Ventura, spoke up to describe WBAI as a “failed state like Somalia” and suggested that like a drowning man, the station should not be “touched”. Lynch seemed unaware of what might be taken as the racially provocative aspects of the language he chose to use.
Months have passed since GM Quincy McCoy stated union negotiations were beginning with the station’s CWA bargaining unit for $200,000 in personnel cost reductions. The continually-delayed negotiations (although some meetings have occurred) were last reported as set to resume after Labor Day. The station’s financial position has worsened dramatically over the delay period, with McCoy taking to the airwaves and website with desperate appeals due to the toll of lost CPB public media funding now totaling well over $600K for KPFA alone — for the 3 years the national board has failed to meet June 30 audit deadlines (2014, 2015 and 2016). Unfortunately for impacted employees, the 2013-2016 CWA contract, which can be found here and remains in effect until a new contract is executed, eliminates severance benefits of two weeks pay per calender year worked — payable on discharge. The benefits cut may have been a drafting error by the bargaining unit and the station’s shop stewards, as section 25 refers to “the severance section of the agreement (section 17)”. Section 17 contains no severance pay provisions nor are they found in any other section of the agreement. The agreement was signed by CWA representatives Sara Steffens and Sally Venable. The loss of severance pay would hit senior employees very hard, with twenty year employees potentially losing some 40 weeks of supplementary pay should they be subject to a layoff due to financial hardship.
IEd Brazon mentioned that WPFW’s facility on DC’s K Street lobbyist row that was rented with great hoopla and a multi-year lease would “no longer be available”, which seems to be a cloaked reference to being evicted due to a failure to pay rent for the past three months. This would be the station’s 2nd move in three years and comes after the station’s six figure gift from a donor to help it buy a building was drained for payroll expenses.
Pacifica in Exile is generally reluctant to release financial information that we know to be inaccurate, but since the resignation of CFO Agarwal is likely to produce that result going forward for an indefinite time, we will release what Pacifica puts out with the broad disclaimer that Agarwal himself stated all the 2015 and 2016 income statements face significant revisions. The July 2016 income statement can be found here. For perspective, we would add that entries like a (-$34,583) in credit card processing fees found on page 11 of the document under KPFK development expenses are clearly erroneous. Figures from the last fiscal year are still shifting dramatically by six figure amounts almost a year after the end of the last fiscal year. For example, current figures for KPFK’s expenses in the 4th quarter of last year (July- September 2015) have increased by about $150,000 from the number on the income statement released by Pacifica in the fall of 2015.
While Pacifica in Exile readers probably don’t need to be told the insane nature of many Pacifica governance calls, but if the point hasn’t already been made, the September 8th affiliates task force was a doozy. Chaired by Cerene Roberts, the two-hour long meeting (or clusterfest) revolved around Siegel/Brazon objections to letting the director of Pacifica’s affiliates program get a copy of applications for the board’s 2017 affiliate director slots. The affiliate director could vet whether the candidates came from actual affiliated stations, as was not the case with the two 2016 representatives. Two hours later, the decision was made to recommend that a copy of the applications be sent to affiliates director Rudenberg rather than being routed around her. Rudenberg submitted a deposition in Yeakey vs Pacifica confirming neither of the board’s two sitting affiliate representatives came from stations with 2016 agreements with Pacifica. Should you wish to listen to the long marathon, the audio can be found here. As an exhibition of poor chairing of a meeting and bullying by NY listener rep Cerene Roberts and Houston listener rep Adriana Casenave, it is unparalleled.
If you would like to support either or both of the legal complaints filed by Pacifica members, you can visit the Clean Up Pacifica Project for more information. An amended complaint was filed in Yeakey vs Pacifica and can be read here.
A timeline of the now two year old coup by the Siegel/Brazon faction can be seen here.
For a satirical look at Pacifica’s troubles from the inside and some biting general political commentary, KPFA’s Twit Wit Radio, produced by noted theatrical producer George Coates, is unmatched. Pacifica’s board elections is the topic of both the August 21st and August 28th episodes.
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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.