Berkeley-The Pacifica National Board met twice in the month of May, on May 11 and May 25. The meetings featured slow but steady progress intermixed with a not inconsiderable amount of disruption from the remnants of the Siegel/Brazon faction, who no longer hold a majority on the national board. Most of the board’s open sessions are point-of-order-athons, making them a frustrating listening experience for the network’s worried members. The independent board majority uses the Maestro Conference service, a popular conference call service, in order to maximize the efficiency of the meetings, but has used the service’s features sparingly and only after numerous warnings.
IED Bill Crosier, who has been unable to provide a report to the board verbally on any board call since February, (5 consecutive times), provided a written copy of his planned report for the board’s May 25 meeting, which can be read here. His previous written reports from March 23 and March 2 can be read by clicking on the links here and here.
Highlights include ongoing settlement negotiations for the unpaid tower rent lawsuit with Empire State Building, which has paused litigation to engage in discussions which have been occurring in New York City, where Crosier and CFO Agarwal have been for the past week. Crosier is holding an open meet and greet with NY-area listeners at WBAI on Monday May 29 at 5pm.
Pacifica is also in dialogue with the Ebay seller who acquired a large quantity of Pacifica’s old master tapes after Pacifica’s national office failed to pay storage bills and the storage company sold off the contents of a storage locker. Other Minds, a Bay Area nonprofit run by KPFA’s former music director Charles Amirkhanian, is assisting with attempts to return the materials to Pacifica’s custody.
The national board acted to reverse the “SCA Motion” initiated by Cerene Roberts in 2016, which attempted to reallocate sideband rental revenues away from Pacifica’s National Office, cutting its self-generated income in half with no replacement. The effort placed the entire 2017 budget process into such chaos that not a single divisional budget was ever approved by the 2016 national board for the current fiscal year. Pacifica’s controller Efren Llarinas had stated in several 2016 finance committee calls that he did not know how to implement the SCA motion. The move rolls back planned fee increases of $20,000 and $50,000 respectively for stations WPFW and KPFA, which had faced them due to smaller sideband rental revenues.
The national board also rescinded a mandate for each station to add an additional 5 hours of Spanish language-only programming to their existing grids. The mandate from June of 2015 had been implemented more than two years later, by only one station – Los Angeles’ KPFK – and ignored by the other four stations. Each Pacifica station has some existing bilingual or Latino-focused public affairs and cultural programming, but only KPFK schedules large blocks of time for Spanish language only programs that are inaccessible to non-Spanish-fluent audiences.
In the closed session on May 25, the board selected an audit firm to begin the delinquent fiscal year 2015 audit (for the year 10-1-2014 to 9-30-2015). The Independent board majority has had a struggle with the Siegel/Brazon remnants in the network to get the late audit going, despite a deadline set by the California Attorney General for receipt of the completed audit report by the end of August 2017. If Pacifica does not make the deadline, then it will face state suspension of its tax-exempt status due to severe audit delinquency.
Hints of the internal struggles can be heard on the audio from open session financial committees. On May 2, Pacifica’s financial committee heard a report from CFO Sam Agarwal on audit readiness where he laid out problems getting the needed documentation from Berkeley’s KPFA, problems which are said to be mostly resolved a month later.
On May 24, Pacifica’s audit committee heard Siegel/Brazonites attempting to drag out the audit firm selection process indefinitely using expressions like “haste makes waste”, a term wildly inappropriate for the process of selecting an audit firm to conduct an audit that was legally due to the State of California 11 months ago in June of 2016.
An anonymous source indicated that prior to the audit firm selection in the national board’s closed session, a Siegel/Brazonite board member moved the 2017 audit committee should be disbanded and the selection process begun all over again from scratch. The motion was defeated by the board’s independent majority, which then went on to select one of the four audit firms that had submitted proposals. On March 2, Pacifica listeners nationwide donated over $200,000 to help the network catch up on the delinquent audits.
Throughout the network, Pacificans continued to react to the revelation that KPFA board chair Carole Travis had been soliciting celebrities to join the board of “Big Tent Radio”, a new nonprofit she claimed to be starting to acquire Pacifica’s assets after it “collapsed“. Two of the recipients of Travis’ appeals sent them to Pacifica IED Crosier, who issued this statement in response. Travis’ “Big Tent” follows her involvement in the previous iteration of the “KPFA Foundation”, a nonprofit created by former Pacifica corporate counsel Dan Siegel and former Pacifica IED Margy Wilkinson in secret. It is now formally registered with the Registry of Charitable Trusts with Pacifica’s 1946 mission statement and Siegel as the chief executive officer and chief financial officer. Big Tent Radio has not been incorporated so Travis’ appeals were either for the KPFA Foundation itself under a new name or for a nonexistent nonprofit that has no board to join. The website www.bigtentradio.org has been purchased by some unhappy with Travis’ actions.
Calls to remove Travis from Pacifica governance have been heard throughout the network, including from sources as unlikely as former IED Lydia Brazon, an erstwhile ally of Travis, Wilkinson, Siegel and Save KPFA. Brazon, apparently a bit sore about her February removal as Pacifica’s executive director, helpfully drafted a resolution for the national board to remove Travis and sent it to the national board unsolicited.
A lengthy conversation about Big Tent Radio was held at the KPFK local station board on May 21. You can listen to selections from that here. It contains a choice bit of revisionist history from Siegel/Brazonite Lawrence Reyes, who while waxing indignantly about Travis’ actions, comes up with the novel assertion that both he and Brazon opposed the similiar actions of Wilkinson and Siegel when the secret existence of the “KPFA Foundation” was uncovered in 2015. What actually happened on the national board in 2015 can be heard here. Both Brazon and Reyes voted three different times: once to not add censuring Wilkinson to the board’s agenda, once to rule out of order a motion to no longer use the services of Siegel as Pacifica’s corporate counsel and once to prevent then-ED John Proffitt from investigating the creation of the “KPFA Foundation”. Brazon cast the tie-breaking vote to prevent an investigation from going forward.
Twit Wit Radio’s satirical look at the Big Tent Radio revelation can be heard here.
Finally, because you can never have too many lawsuits, the Siegel/Brazon remnants filed in Alameda Superior Court a 3-part lawsuit designed to try to recapture the national board majority after their large losses in the 2016 board elections. The lawsuit is being prosecuted by Harold Smith, the longtime law partner of Harmeet Dhillon, chair of the California Republican Party. Smith was her law partner for 8 years from 2006-2014, starting up his own firm in 2014. Dhillon, who infamously delivered a prayer for Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention addressing him as “a warrior and a leader” following Jefferson Sessions’ nomination of Trump, is the spouse of former national board member Sarv Randawa who represented Berkeley’s Save KPFA faction on Pacifica‘s national board for five years from 2004-2008. Dhillon and Smith previously pursued two other lawsuits against Pacifica, representing Siegel/Brazonites Brian Edwards-Tiekert and Rodrigo Argueta in 2011.
The complaint can be read here. It asks the court to restore LA listener rep Sharon Brown, after Brown was found to hold a seat on the Los Angeles Small Business Commission and was ruled ineligible by KPFK’s station board by an 18-1 vote, due to the bylaws restriction on board members holding political appointments. It also asks the court to restore Efia Nwangaza to an affiliate director position by continuing to throw out the votes of NY’s representatives. And the lawsuit asks the court to issue a pre-emptive injunction against any removal of Adriana Casenave for refusing to cede the board chair position to the newly elected board for three meetings in February and March of 2017. Plaintiffs Brown, Casenave and Nwangaza are suing board members David Beaton and Mansoor Sabbagh as individuals as well as Pacifica as an entity and claim in their complaint that Pacifica is “failing to protect the Foundation from attempts to dismantle it” – apparently trying to use the actions of their erstwhile allies in Save KPFA (Wilkinson, Siegel and Travis) to support their lawsuit.
A timeline of the 35-month long coup by the Siegel/Brazon faction can be seen here.
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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-sponsored radio.