Originally posted March 19, 2014
Berkeley–At the Pacifica Radio headquarters at 1925 Martin Luther King Jr Way, the March 13th late-night attempted firing of the executive director, looks to be getting expensive. The illegitimate dismissal, which happened at a late-night meeting with no prior notification and for no stated reason, looks headed to a court room.
Board member Jose Luis Fuentes, employee of Oakland mayoral candidate Dan Siegel, a controversial former corporate counsel for Pacifica, is reported to have filed suit. The action would attempt to evict the nonprofit’s director as a trespasser from the workplace she returned to for the past two days, along with the network’s national employees, who were all locked out on Friday March 14, and returned to work Monday morning by removing the padlock placed on the door by the alleged chair of the board.
Fuentes appears to be violating CA Corporations Code by funding the takeover with network resources without receiving authorization. The Pacifica National Board has not met since March 13th and is not scheduled to meet again until March 20th. Several incumbent directors stated they had not received any notification of nor been asked to consent to a legal action. It is not clear whether the legal work Fuentes refers to is being performed by the foundation’s counsel Terry Gross, another lawyer hired without the board’s knowledge, or by Fuentes himself as an interested director.
On the evening of Monday March 17th, a small number of coup supporters tried to force the employees out the of the office, including the unelected board chair Margy Wilkinson, her husband, and KPFA host Brian Edwards-Tiekert, but they ended up leaving.
On the morning of the attempted firing, it is reported Berkeley station KPFA next door refused to turn over its financial records for an annual audit. $70,000 to $80,000 in event income from the last two-dozen speaker series events has been missing for months and still has not surfaced.
Meanwhile rumors have been flying around the country that a small segment of the board has been in negotiations with an entity associated with Comcast news channel MS-NBC to take over WBAI’s license, an ironic state of affairs for a network that has long accused the corporate media of “banging the drums for war”. At the moment, it is impossible to verify one way or the other.
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.