I can’t always respond to developments within the Pacifica Radio Network at the time they occur, so this is a look back at one of this year’s most noteworthy Pacifica National Board (PNB) votes. On 02/12/2015, the PNB voted to give the Pacifica Foundation CFO authority over the business managers at all five Pacifica stations.
This has remained on my mind because of its glaring inconsistency with the longstanding “local control” platform of the SaveKPFA majority on the KPFA Local Station Board (LSB) and their PNB delegates. I have never seen a SaveKPFA explanation of how this could be compatible with the “local control” they hailed five months earlier with “Finally, local control at KPFA,” a 07/12/2014 post to the SaveKPFA blog. This vote put newly re-hired CFO Raul Salvador in a position to hire and fire and give orders to the business managers at all five stations from coast to coast.
Janet Kobren, who ran for the LSB with the United for Community Radio caucus, introduced the motion. The SaveKPFA caucus then joined her in voting for it after Brian Edwards-Tiekert, a SaveKPFA staff representative, introduced this substitute wording:
The hire and/or termination of any Business Manager shall require approval by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
The CFO shall also directly supervise all accounting functions performed by Business Managers and shall participate in all evaluations of Business Managers.
The CFO may seek PNB approval for the termination of a Business Manager whose unit manager is unwilling to terminate him/her at the CFO’s recommendation.
How could this be “local control”?
During Summer Reese’s tenure as IGM and GM, the accounting staff at the PNO charged that the 2013 audit could not be completed in 2014 unless KPFA’s Business Manager Maria Negret agreed to open KPFA’s books for the PNO’s lead accountant Maria Gaite. This audit had to be completed in order for Pacifica to receive the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) funds that it ultimately did not receive in 2014.
At one point I became so exasperated by the back and forth about this that I wrote to ask former KPFA General Manager Richard Pirodsky what the real problem was, and this was his e-mailed response:
“That the reconciliations should have been done long ago is the start of the problem. But it has been overcome at other stations. (Maria G. and Joyce had to do all of KPFK’s work, and work at KPFT, WPFW, and WBAI had to be re-done. All this delayed the entire process.) The holdup at KPFA came from the Marias (G. & N.), [Maria Gaite at the Pacifica National Office and Maria Negret at KPFA], not being able to work together. Maria G. wanted copies of all necessary documents. Maria N. wanted Maria G. to come over to the KPFA business office and work with her. She offered access to the original documents and Maria G. (or a chosen PNO staffer) was free to make copies of any documents that needed to be taken back to the PNO. But Maria N. and Maria G. just don’t get along and don’t seem to agree on much. As with so many aspects of Pacifica, personality conflicts preclude even the discussion of compromise or cooperation.”
I have two responses to that message:
1) Richard Pirodsky was KPFA’s General Manager at the time. This PNB resolution centralizing control of Pacifica’s finances in the national office had not yet been passed, so he was at that time Maria Negret’s direct supervisor. He was the local manager in local control, as the SaveKPFA caucus seemed to advocate, and a million dollars is a lot to lose over a “personality conflict between the two Marias.” Didn’t he feel compelled to tell KPFA’s Maria Negret that he expected her to cooperate with the national office to get the audit done, as all four other stations’ business managers had?
Apparently not, and now, despite the loss of a million dollars in CPB funding in the name of local control, KPFA’s local manager has even less local control than before.
2) What could have been the risk in releasing KPFA’s books to the Pacifica National Office for the audit, as every other station in the network had? And why, after the current Board majority ousted Executive Director Summer Reese and rehired CFO Raul Salvador, was the PNB majority, and more particularly the SaveKPFA caucus, so eager to throw “local control” out the window? The only logical conclusion I can come to is that “local control” was a useful mantra only until the SaveKPFA caucus and its allies were able to put Raul Salvador back in charge of Pacifica’s finances at the national office.
If they can explain this otherwise, I’ll do my best to listen with an open mind.
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist, a contributor to the KPFA Evening News and a member of KPFA’s elected UPSO Council.