Berkeley-At last night’s Pacifica National Board meeting, a number of unexplainable things occurred.
Despite a pronouncement by KPFA-affiliated director Jose Luis Fuentes (and Siegel and Yee employee) that the national board had passed a policy back in February that the executive director of the foundation was no longer permitted to hire station general managers without a vote of the board authorizing it,, a hire of Quincy McCoy as KPFA’s next general manager was announced by departing temporary ED Bernard Duncan. Without a vote by the board of directors ever having occurred. Inquiries to the board as to why they are not following their own policies were met with silence.
Fuentes proposed a strange motion at Monday’s PNB personnel committee (not voted on by the committee) to ban the foundation’s executive director from hiring station managers, hiring or supervising any national office staff, authorizing expenditures or serving as a spokesperson for the organization. The job description changes Fuentes proposed would essentially turn the executive director into an administrative assistant, render the job undesirable, and vests all operational supervision into the hands of an all-volunteer board.
Duncan, who was a no-show at the meeting and has announced a departure date of July 5th, submitted this written report to the board, where he noted the Empire State Building had returned WBAI’s last two transmitter payments and may be preparing to evict the station from its antenna/transmitter rental space. He did not indicate whether Pacifica would be on the hook for lease payments through 2025 nor how the station’s aging transmitter could be moved. Pacifica technical staff have stated it is unlikely the equipment could survive a move and would likely need full replacement.
Purported board chair Margy Wilkinson refused to inform the board who would be taking over the executive director position after Duncan’s departure in two weeks, stating that she would inform the board on June 30th, negating the board’s role in making such decisions, which apparently are being made unilaterally.
Wilkinson also informed the board that Siegel and Yee had been retained to represent the Pacifica Foundation in Free Speech Radio News vs Pacifica, the lawsuit filed by the independent Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship, who produced a daily 30 minute newscast for Pacifica for years. The programs were funded by Pacifica’s NPPAG grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Pacifica has not received any CPB funds for more than a year due to late and/or incomplete audits.
Siegel’s hiring by Pacifica, due to the presence on the board of his employee, Jose Luis Fuentes, requires ratification by the board due to the presence of an interested director on the board who directly benefits from the provision of revenue to his own firm. By having Siegel file a response in this new case without a full board vote excluding the vote of the interested director, the board of directors is in violation of Section 5233 of the California Corporations Code. The board never voted to retain Siegel in FSRN vs. Pacifica.
Fired then re-hired CFO Raul Salvador made an appearance at the board meeting, although he submitted no written report, and cast doubt on the claim that the much-delayed 2013 audit would actually begin on the date of June 30th, 9 months after the end of the fiscal year on 9-30-2013. Salvador said only 30% of the required schedules were completed. Salvador also was non-responsive to questions regarding the correction of the erroneous tax returns for the previous fiscal year, stating it was an “opinion” that they are erroneous, although they state Pacifica does not receive 33% of its support from members, omit the required form 100, classify interdivisional transfers as revenue, and are at least a million dollars out of whack with the auditor’s numbers. Salvador also admitted to working only three days of the 8 month period since he was placed on administrative leave on October 24, 2013, although Pacifica appears to have paid him over $50,000 since October. No financial information has been released by the organization since Reese was abruptly terminated.
It was also announced that an employee terminated in 2013 for releasing dozens of employee’s social security numbers without authorization to LA board member Lydia Brazon in an insecure email, had been rehired as the foundation’s controller.
At KPFA’s local station board meeting on June 14th, re-hashed financial statements from February were re-released with errors, and the previously announced figure of $790,000 for the station’s May fund drive was pulled back to $664,000 (less the approximately 6% that is remitted to Fresno satellite KFCF). Uprising, the LA syndicated show which replaced a series of local programs in the 8am slot. The program change has already elicited a slew of letters of condemnation from the San Francisco Labor Council, ILWU Local 10, the Golden Gate Letter Carriers Union, Veterans for Peace, the Gray Panthers and the Richmond Progressive Alliance. The fund drive numbers revealed that early crowing about all the money pouring in was deceptive, with this fund drive totaling no more than the May fund drives in 2013, 2012, 2011 or 2010. Uprising also demonstrated a startlingly low pledge fulfillment rate, 9% below the station-wide average (65%) and 14% less than the program it replaced (71%) , suggesting that many of the pledges booked may never actually be sent into the station.
A series of community events discussing the program grid change and the state of the network will be held in Northern California including:
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.