Not Thinking Straight

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News and Information about Pacifica Radio
News and Information about Pacifica Radio

BerkeleyGlobal Village host Derek Rath was the latest long-time staffer to blast KPFK and Pacifica management, saying in a September 8th email that “you are either not thinking straight or you are trying to bring down the station”. Rath’s whole email in which he describes management and the boards as “out of sync with reality” can be read here.

Margy Wilkinson-appointed general manager Leslie Radford incited a huge rumor mill on September 17th, when she snapped at staffers relaying a call from a donor upset about not receiving a premium that “the whole thing may be closing down”. This was followed the next morning by a chirpy email proposing two fund drives, a short no-premiums drive this upcoming week, followed by a longer one beginning October 5th. The confusing information is taking a toll on staff, as well as listener-supporters trying as best they can to figure out what is going on. Local board treasurer Michael Novick decried the “alarmist statements that turn into viral rumors” and said “staff, programmers and the local station board should be apprised in a professional manner of current situations”.

The LA atmosphere wasn’t helped by reports that at least one managerial employee, iPD Alan Minsky, had been restored to full-time pay. Minsky appears to be misquoting the FCC’s Main Studio Rule, which does in fact require one full-time employee to be maintained at a licensed noncommercial radio outlet, but describes that employee as “non-managerial” which is usually interpreted as a technical employee or in radio parlance, a chief engineer. The main studio rules clearly permit a part-time general manager/PD combo as long as hours are staggered, but in the general chaos the restoration to full-time for Minsky seems to have gone through, despite the fondness of the Siegel/Brazon ruling faction for “chop from the top” manifestos.

Radio MagOnline contains a brief “what you need to know” about the rule here:

“Each main studio must be staffed with at least two full-time employees. One of the two employees must be managerial. The managerial employee must be based at the main studio and spend at least part of each day there. Alternatively, a station may employ two or more part-time managerial employees whose combined hours provide a full-time managerial presence at the main studio. The non-managerial or staff employee may be shared with another employer if the employee is present full-time at the main studio and has adequate time to handle his or her tasks for the station”. 

Another of the strange phenomena in effect this week was the phantom of Uprising, which disappeared from KPFK’s air on Wednesday with replacement hosts on Thursday and Friday, but time-warped on KPFA where the fund drive in process aired reruns. Listeners donated fairly heavily to ghost Uprising, apparently trying to be supportive of whatever the heck was going on. On the same day, KPFK announced Uprising would be hosted by other people three times a week and then KPFA announced Uprising would be hosted by Kolhatkar 5 days a week. Kolhatkar later provided a post on her blog indicating Radford, apparently with no supervision from Pacifica, told Free Speech TV to broadcast the multi-host version of Uprising to fulfill the contract between Pacifica and FSTV.  Free Speech TV declined and withdrew from the contract. Pacifica collected $62,999 from 500+ donors on Indiegogo last year to install a TV production studio in LA for Uprising TV, but managed to keep the TV show in production for only 10 months. Kolhatkar begged Pacifica interim ED Margy Wilkinson not to raid the Indiegogo funds last year and use them for general operating expenses, but that was to no avail as the restricted bank account was emptied in the fall of 2014.

The current situation presents the prospect the network will simultaneously air at 8:00am two completely different shows called Uprising in California, with KPFA making money for itself from Kolhatkar’s labor troubles, instead of generating new local programming which the Berkeley station has largely failed to do. The Northern CA broadcasts will exacerbate listener migration away from KPFK with easy online access to Kolhatkar’s “banned broadcasts”. It is likely to accelerate the meltdown former IED Margy Wilkinson is facilitating after appointing the unqualified Radford to break KPFK financially and help convey KPFA’s broadcast license to her own private nonprofit.

Radford finally issued a general manager’s report to the LA local board late Saturday. It can be found here. The report mostly confirms what has already leaked out, with a few new wrinkles. The wrinkles include information that the LA station hasn’t been able to receive incoming phone calls for several days, the temporary bookkeeper who fled after a week has still not been replaced with the current temp committed for only three days, and Radford’s failure to differentiate between external accounts payables (which are around $200,000) and money owed within the network to other divisions (which is around $350,000) when describing the station’s level of debt. KPFK has not yet been offered the three-year installment payback plan for network services that PNB treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert advocated for when his own station fell $250,000+ internally in debt.

The major blockbuster in the report was Radford borrowing $12,000 from an undisclosed source, apparently without the knowledge or sign-off of the national board. This is followed up with the bizarre statement that Radford intends to “borrow more” if the LA local station board will “waive a conflict of interest”. The LA general manager doesn’t understand the only body that can engage in the legal process of waiving a conflict of interest to engage in a financial transaction with an interested party is the 501c3’s actual board of directors.

Pacifica’s board elections are now promised to go forward on October 15th, after Pacifica failed to make a $25,000 postage deposit and refused to mail the ballots on August 31st. The October 15th promise was made by now-resigned ED John Proffitt. It remains to be seen if board chair/IED Lydia Brazon will keep it. Brazon is believed not to be eager to move ahead with elections. Brazon’s LA local board majority and the national board majority itself, is predicated on unelected runners-up who inherited seats after the actual winners moved on after quorum fails and missed elections. 10 of  24 current local board members in LA were never elected to their seats and the current majority is different than the one that was victorious in the last completed election. For good measure, Brazon also scooted off the national board the only rep from the faction opposed to her own, so all four of the LA national board seats belong to the faction that lost the last election.

The legal letter briefly referred to during the last national board meeting was from LA firm Mandel and Manpearl and indicated a lawsuit might be forthcoming if the election does not proceed. If the election actually goes forward, this publication will send out an election edition with endorsements in all 5 signal areas.

KPFK’s layoffs to date, have targeted staff members who declared candidacies for the local board with two out of three staff layoffs hitting candidates so far. A third, Jose Benavides, told at least one co-worker his paid employment had been terminated, and a fourth IT director Jonathan Alexander, had exit paperwork with his name on it visible on the general manager’s desk.  Of the staff candidates not reliably allied with Radford’s Siegel/Brazon faction, at least half will have had their employment terminated by Radford. The local board evaluates the general manager and recommends termination or retention.

The California Employment Development Department rejected Pacifica’s application for the State Worksharing Plan, a partial unemployment benefits program that KPFK staff cut involuntarily to half-time, were told they could access. The stated reasons for the rejection were that GM Radford’s application was a xerox that did not contain John Proffitt’s original signature, and the failure of the SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining unit to sign off on the worksharing as required by law. SAG-AFTRA took Pacifica to arbitration over the work reductions on August 27th. The union has stated there is and was no agreement in place regarding the cuts. Pacifica filing a worksharing application with no union concurrence is a unionbusting tactic designed to punish employees financially for their union’s advocacy in hopes of weakening support for the collective bargaining unit.

It’s also possible KPFA’s previous tangled engagement with the worksharing program is creating problems for the KPFK application. After KPFA made layoffs in 2010, a worksharing plan was introduced at the Berkeley station, nominally to “save” news reporter John Hamilton’s job after PNB treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert bumped him out of it on seniority grounds.  The worksharing program was not station-wide as is proposed at KPFK, it benefited only four employees in KPFA’s news department, news anchors Aileen Alfandary and Mark Mericle (a CWA vice-president), Hamilton, and PNB treasurer Edwards-Tiekert. The program was cloaked by the Siegel/Brazon faction (called Save KPFA in Berkeley) which issued duplicitous public statements(at a “labor” rally, no less) that coworkers had donated their hours in an act of solidarity. But in fact they were collecting partial unemployment benefits from the State of California. Unbeknowst to most, the partial unemployment benefits for the trio continued for more than four years, with the compensation outlasting Hamilton, the employee whose layoff was supposed to be prevented. The by-then fraudulent benefit collection came to light when an organization that had hired Edwards-Tiekert for a short-term job was startled to receive unemployment paperwork from the EDD. The worksharing plan was discontinued shortly afterwards.

The EDD denial had additional negative consequences for KPFK staff, after manager Radford sent the entire 10-page EDD denial package containing 21 employee’s social security numbers out on an insecure all-staff email list that includes hundreds of station volunteers. Staff were appalled and not particularly mollified by GM Radford’s apology which included an offer of “an hour’s pay if they wanted to change their social security numbers”. This is not the first time KPFK’s staff has had their private social security numbers laid bare. In 2013, controller Efren Llarinas sent an entire payroll package from Paychex by unencrypted email to board member Lydia Brazon without authorization. Then-ED Summer Reese terminated his employment as result of the data breach, but as with his former boss Raul Salvador, the Siegel/Brazon faction had Llarinas rehired after they snatched control of the board.

KPFK’s IT director, Jonathan Alexander, who appears to be targeted for termination by Radford, stated that his personal social security number had been released by Pacifica without his authorization *four* times during the duration of his employment. He added he had attended a PNB meeting to address the board of directors and tell them to stop breaking the law, and that in his opinion, this was employee intimidation and a union busting tactic being used by Brazon and other members of the Siegel/Brazon faction.

(The editor of this publication notes that only the first three pages of the EDD denial package paperwork is available via the Pacifica in Exile website).

11 days prior to the end of the fiscal year, Pacifica still has no budgets with the national finance committee having passed exactly 0 of 7 budgetary documents on to the national board for review. Some partial documents have materialized, mostly from KPFK and KPFA. For the Berkeley station, the budget draft is mostly notable for failing to account for the annual depreciation allowance and for the privatization of the station’s annual crafts fair (now two of them). They have been outsourced to the private event planning business of the coordinator, who will keep all the booth rental fees and provide KPFA with only door receipts, which are not projected to exceed the employee’s annual salary and benefit package. The arrangement eliminates the fundraising aspect of the crafts fairs  – as any profit upside from raising booth rental fees would accrue to the outside business, not to KPFA.

Seven weeks after paying off the balance due to the auditor, nothing much has materialized. Pacifica owes another $14,000 to the auditing firm for tax form preparation. The lack of a timely audit report (again) has placed Pacifica in state default, torpedoed Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding and per KPFA’s last local board meeting, knocked out a $30,000 grant after the funder declined due to the network being out of compliance.

KPFA’s Twit Wit Radio satire touched on some of Pacifica’s weekly news in their September 6th episode where a familiar-sounding voice comments that “It is next to impossible to privatize a solvent radio network”. You can listen here or at kpfa.org.

Pacifica in Exile readers may write to the board at pnb@pacifica.org.

For readers who may wish to do more, any donor to a California-based not for profit organization like Pacifica may file a complaint to the open file at the Registry of Charitable Trusts at the Office of the CA Attorney General. Pacifica’s case number is CT011303. The form and instructions for filing may be downloaded here.

Complaint Form

To subscribe to this newsletter, please visit our spanking new website at www.pacificainexile.org

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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.

 

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