The Return

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Berkeley – Election update. As of press time, voting has been extended at KPFT in Houston and WPFW in Washington, DC until October 7th and at KPFK in Los Angeles until October 10th. Elections at WBAI and KPFA are closed. 

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. 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 kingreilly@roadrunner.com.

For more on our endorsed slates of candidates, see the Committee to Strengthen KPFKMove KPFT ForwardUnited for Community Radio (KPFA), and WBAI Indy Caucus websites.

On Friday September 30, former Pacifica CFO Raul Salvador showed up for work at KPFK in Los Angeles. No notification in advance had been provided to staff at the LA station or to Pacifica’s board of directors.  No information has been provided about what job Salvador is doing, what his responsibilities are, who he reports to, or what amount of money he is being paid. An inquiry to Pacifica executive director Lydia Brazon went unanswered. (Update: Brazon is said to have indicated during the unstreamed national board meeting that Salvador is a “consultant”). 

Salvador first worked for Pacifica in May of 2013 as the CFO, was terminated in January of 2014, rehired as the CFO after the 2014 Siegel/Brazon coup, resigned in May of 2015 and then worked for some months following as an amorphous “consultant”. The severely past due audits that have cost $2.5 million in CPB public media funding began during Salvador’s period as CFO, as well as misappropriation of parts of the Material World Foundation grant  (in 2014), an Indiegogo campaign (in 2014), a bequest to the Pacifica Foundation (in 2015) and a credit card fraud incident where a Pacifica company credit card account Salvador replaced was not closed, and then used for $4,000 in purchases at Ralph Lauren and Walmart in Southern California.

Sam Agarwal resigned as Pacifica’s chief financial officer in September after nine months on the job. KPFK’s business manager position has been officially vacant since January 2016 and not occupied by a permanent employee for over three years.

The Pacifica National Board met on the evening of October 6th, but what ensued is a mystery. The board chose to violate Corporation for Public Broadcasting open meeting requirements and not stream the meeting to provide public access. The board’s scheduled streaming volunteer did not show up and in violation of the CPB’s instruction that public media boards *must* make a good faith effort to provide real-time public observation, the board rejected Houston rep Bill Crosier’s offer to stream the meeting for them. Before rejoining the board as a director in 2016, Crosier had regularly volunteered streaming services to Pacifica. The 8 board members who voted to flout open meeting requirements were Wesley Bethune and Adriana Casenave from KPFT, Janet Kobren from KPFA, Ron Pinchback, Nancy Sorden and Jim Brown from WPFW, Cerene Roberts from WBAI and Temba Tshibanda (formerly Jevon Gammon) from Uhuru Radio.

Pacifica has lost $2.5 million in public media community service grants (CSG) since 2014 due to three consecutive missed deadlines for the submission of audited financial statements (in June of 2014, 2015 and 2016). In addition to the financial audits, the CPB requires a quarterly open meetings compliance report. Pacifica has been on open meetings probation for several years. A blatant flouting of the open meeting regulations, as happened this last evening, would likely jumpstart another year of probation, further delaying any restoration of funding even if the audit backlog should miraculously get caught up.

The low odds of the audit backlog getting caught up were on display at the October 3 meeting of the national audit committee. In this remarkable clip, audit chair William Heerwagon reports that the FY 2014 audit is not finished or even “close to finished” and there are still several open items, more than 2 years after the end of the fiscal year. Auditor Armanino is still owed money that would need to be paid prior to any audit release. Heerwagon adds that he did not ask the auditor about the one-page recovery plan submitted by ED Brazon on behalf of the board of directors, did not request what items were still open, and would not pass on any questions regarding Pacifica’s financial condition from members of the committee. Pacifica’s FY 2014 audit, which ED Brazon has claimed repeatedly for months was “finished”, was due to the State of California Registry of Charitable Trusts and to the CPB on June 30, 2015 – 16 months ago. It is the latest audit in Pacifica’s history. Heerwagon added that he did not “want to know” which items were still open at this late date.

The previous Pacifica National Board meeting was on September 29. The meeting was scheduled for the purpose of voting on three rather trivial bylaws amendments rushed through earlier this year. The board supported two of them: one which tweaks the job description for the network’s local boards from holding two town hall meetings a year to holding one town hall meeting and one fundraising event a year – and the other changing the delegate election schedule beginning in 2019 from every two out of three years to every other year and lengthening LSB member terms from three years to four years. A third proposed bylaws amendment tweaking the schedule for proposing bylaws amendments failed. The local boards now have two months to consider the two remaining proposed amendments.

The real fireworks during the meeting happened during the agenda-setting effort when attempts by board members to introduce more substantive items were pushed aside. Houston rep Bill Crosier asked for a report from ED Brazon answering several questions (see below) and of less immediate import, NY rep Cerene Roberts wanted the board to take up the issue of not allowing applications for 2017 affiliate director positions on the board to be vetted for participation in the affiliate program by affiliates director Ursula Rudenberg. Robert’s issue was the subject of debate in the long and contentious affiliates committee meeting on September 8th posted earlier as an example of bullying and obstructive maneuvering by board majority members like Roberts and Houston’s Adriana Casenave.

A highlight reel of the September 29 national board meeting can be heard here. In it, Crosier asks to have ED Brazon answer the following questions:

1) What’s being done about the selling of Archives material on eBay due to non-payment of rent for storage units?

2) How will salaries be paid for national office and PRA employees, plus how will payments be made for medical insurance, election expenses, required legal settlements and other NO expenses?

3) What happens if True Ballot and the election supervisors are not paid and True Ballot refuses to tabulate the ballots? Will we be in court in the near future about that?

4) Will the PNB get the final arbitration report and payment schedule for KPFK employees?Why is this being kept secret from the PNB?

5) What are recent staff changes and upcoming ones?

Crosier’s information request was ruled out of order and no information was provided to the board of directors on any of the above inquiries by Brazon. (Update: It has since been reported that True Ballot has not been paid their $15,000 fee for ballot tabulation and other services and that WPFW’s election supervisor has not been paid and is owed $2,500 by the DC station). National supervisor Lynne Serpe provided tentative membership numbers that indicated Pacifica’s nationwide membership had slid dramatically from 55,000 members nationwide in 2015 to 48,000 in 2016, a one-year decline of 15%. 

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.

After the fragile state of Pacifica’s endangered archives became a national story in the last month, 19 Pacifica reel-to-reel archival master tapes appeared for sale on Ebay.com in the last two weeks. An anonymous source told the NY-based blog WBAI Now and Then the materials came from a 20-year-old storage locker in Rosemead, CA that had been maintained by the national office and was auctioned off in the last year due to non-payment of the storage fee. Pacifica’s income statements indicate the national office stopped paying any off-site storage fees as of 2015.

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 is at least $200,000 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. ED Brazon has still not shown the final settlement agreement to the board of directors.

At the LA station, Radford’s latest problem is described as “bathroom sabotage” with the GM accusing KPFK staff of deliberately jamming the toilets with paper towels. She gave employees a “snow day” while the bathrooms were repaired and then locked. Her memo can be seen here.

At Houston’s KPFT, which has been under significant financial stress, the local board’s attention is riveted on majority/minority politics as the year draws to a close. After months of threatened censures and expulsions, the latest focus of the local Siegel/Brazon majority is George Reiter, a tenured physics professor and the 2010 chair of the Pacifica National Board. Reiter faces being forced off the local board for the last six weeks of his term. The charge against Reiter is that he overstayed his term on the board, which of course he did as did much of the board when the Pacifica National board extended terms in May of 2015. Reiter’s extension put him over the six year limit if you don’t count a 5 month break in 2011. An obscure bylaws amendment passed in 2015 did exactly that, changing the bylaws so breaks don’t count. Reiter being forced off for the six weeks between October 12 and December 5 is connected to the majority attempt to fire Duane Bradley, KPFT’s manager of more than a decade. The local board majority wishes to bring the matter to a vote before the year runs up and do not perceive Reiter to be a supporter of that action.

The KPFT local board’s expel-Reiter motion, which will come up at an October 12 meeting, proposes replacing Reiter with Robert Gartner, a runner-up from last year’s election, even though KPFT completes its 2016 election tomorrow. The proposal continues the schizophrenia of the Siegel/Brazonites, who replaced a departing NY rep with a runner-up from a 2012 election and then within days replaced a departing KPFA rep with a runner-up from the 2015 election then in progress, holding the KPFA seat open to wait for the election results to come in. In this clip, you can hear members of the local Siegel/Brazon faction (Save KPFA) tangling themselves up in knots to justify the different actions in each signal area. They go so far as to say that “there *are* election results in Berkeley: we just don’t know what they are yet”.  Former ED Wilkinson proclaims that “clearly” the seat should not be filled per the older election, but by the recent one in progress. None of the Siegel/Brazonites have spoken up regarding the Reiter situation and of course the board majority is in court in NY spending listener monies to defend filling the NY seat with a runner-up from the old election while a new election was in progress.

At KPFA in Berkeley, lengthy negotiations with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) to reduce personnel costs for the financially struggling station have been proceeding at a snail’s pace since the summer.  GM McCoy has said the goal is $200,000 in annual reductions with a focus on the station’s generous health insurance plan which provides full coverage for all employees and dependents who work 18 hours a week — with no employee contributions and the lowest co-payment rates offered by Kaiser. In a recent wrinkle, it was found that a temporary concession by the union in 2015 to allow KPFA to switch to a health plan with a slightly higher co-payment rate in order to ease financial stress and avoid layoffs, may not be so temporary. The bargaining contract addendum pinned to a wall unsigned at KPFA, which commits the station to return to the highest-priced Kaiser plan, was not signed by then-ED John Proffitt, who indicated that not only had he not signed it, he had not seen it. If not later signed by successor ED Brazon, this may introduce a bit more flexibility into the ongoing negotiations.

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.

Twit Wit Radio: August 21, 2016

Twit Wit Radio: August 28, 2016

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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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