Originally posted March 20, 2014
Berkeley-The Pacifica National Board, which attempted to terminate Executive Director Summer Reese only 7 weeks after signing a 3-year contract, and still has stated no reason for the rushed vote taken with no legal consultation, is floating a familiar face as her proposed replacement: a recently-resigned manager in their own network, Bernard Duncan who was the general manager at the LA station KPFK until a few months ago.
Duncan, a New Zealander, had announced his intention to relocate back to New Zealand in the spring of 2014 months earlier in an email sent to the LA radio station’s staff. Duncan’s resignation came after the station’s business manager was found to have been conducting a second job filling out tax returns for H&R Block using the radio network’s computer equipment and after the Pacifica National Board made a human resources intervention into a program director hire that dragged on for almost two years with accusations of unethical behavior. KPFK, the network’s LA outlet and one of the largest radio licenses west of the Mississippi River, was recently warned by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that it would lose national funding due to listenership not reaching the minimum level for the signal and market size required to maintain funding.
In the meantime, the illegitimate termination continues to be resisted by Reese, the national office staff who work under her direct supervision, and many KPFA (the nation’s Berkeley outlet) local board members, staffers and members, several of whom banded together to create a statement that begins “We the undersigned members of the KPFA Local Station Board, staff and listeners, strongly believe that the members of the Pacifica National Board acted improperly at their late-night telephone board meeting on March 13, 2014, when they voted to fire Executive Director Summer Reese without due process”. The full text of the statement can be found here.
National office employees have had to clear gauntlets of board members to enter and leave their workplace. The office continues to be protected by local members and staffers who have manned it 24 hours a day since 6:30am on March 17th to allow the locked out employees to return and do their jobs. Video from the occupied site is available here and here. National office employees have expressed concern about the upcoming annual audit that was scheduled to begin on March 27th amidst the chaos, although the employees did manage to file CPB renewal paperwork remotely during the period of time they were locked out. The board members executing the coup seem highly concerned about gaining control of the network’s bank accounts and have made numerous inquiries of confused staff and vendors, (including the auditing firm) for bank account numbers and signature permissions, which has left staff and vendors concerned about who to give what information to.
The National Board has produced no minutes or formal record of its activities for the past seven weeks. The woman claiming to be the board chair, Margy Wilkinson, only received 11 votes, or 50% support of the board and was placed in the chair position by a quick vote after one opposed director left the room briefly. The vice-chair was forced to resign a position as an elected official in DC after fellow board members pointed out that the organization’s bylaws forbid elected officials on the board and he had not disclosed his elected political position is his candidate statement. The secretary has been banned from the premises of WBAI-FM for physical encounters with other volunteers.
A rumored secret negotiation with an entity associated with MSNBC for the New York outlet WBAI appears to be linked to one of the lease bidders in a request for proposals issued by the network at the end of the last year. Reese is believed to have been not particularly favorable to that proposal and if forced to consider a lease operator, more favorably inclined towards another. It’s unknown what role the uncertainty over WBAI’s future as a left megaphone in one of the biggest media marketplaces in the world is linked to Reese’s attempted ouster. This article in NY’s Villager describes some of the going-ons from the East Coast perspective.
The attempted firing looks likely to be adjudicated by a California court, but in the meantime the Pacifica National Board plans to meet in a secret closed session this evening at 5;30 Pacific, 8:30 Eastern.