Dan Siegel’s Not-So-Great Decade at Pacifica

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compiled by Daniel Borgström

For several years Attorney Dan Siegel has been championing the rights of victims of police violence in Oakland, both before and during the Occupy movement. Nobody can deny that Siegel has done good work.  Nevertheless, his record at KPFA and other Pacifica stations including  WBAI has been consistently bad and seems difficult to write off as  “bad judgment.” Looking back at things Siegel did while General  Counsel and interim Executive Director for the Pacifica Foundation, I strongly suspect that Siegel deliberately intended to harm the foundation.

This spring he took time out from his campaign for Mayor of Oakland  where he is running as a progressive candidate to appear in court on April 28, 2014 and again on May 6th to argue for a TRO asking police to raid the Pacifica National Office and evict occupiers. This seems totally inconsistent with his progressive image.

This week, while awaiting the judge’s decision on the May 6th hearing, he reportedly assisted disputed CFO Raul Salvador in his efforts to interfere with Pacifica Foundation payroll from going out on schedule — a destructive action which looks to me like a deliberate attempt at sabotage against Pacifica.

Below are some of the not-so-great things that Dan Siegel has done during the last decade at the Pacifica network.

Daniel Borgström, daniel41@trip.net,  Daniel’s Blog

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Margy Wilkinson of SaveKPFA (Margy is the disputed chair of the PNB) asked the police to evict occupiers from the Pacifica HQ in Berkeley.  That is part of a TRO which Attorney Dan Siegel of Siegel & Yee requested the court to issue on Monday, April 28, 2014.

Here is paragraph 9 of Margy’s TRO declaration, signed Margy Wilkinson
and dated April 22, 2014:

The Board has sought the assistance of the Berkeley Police  Department, which is charged with protecting the Foundation’s property. However, the Berkeley Police Department was unable to persuade Reese to vacate the National Office. The Foundation has previously applied for a citizen’s arrest to the Berkeley Police
Department which after weeks of considering the matter, requested that Cross-Complaint obtain a Court order to abate the nuisance. The Berkeley Police Department has stated that it would enforce a temporary restraining order if the Court were to issue one.

The case was continued to May 6th, 2014; Dan Siegel again argued the
same case. The court’s decision is not yet in.

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In 2008 the KPFA LSB found an ideal candidate for GM, who was supported so overwhelmingly by the LSB. The candidate was Michel Shehadeh, a Palestinian-American businessman, human and civil rights activist, former research associate at San Francisco State University

Siegel prevented Michel Shehadeh from being hired by demanding a pool of candidates, thus dragging out the process till Shehadeh eventually took a job somewhere else.

An article
in the SF Bay View by Fadi Saba (Feb 6, 2008) gives details:

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On Jul 13, 2012, Mitchel Cohen of WBAI wrote:

Here are his words, verbatim, from the July 7, 2012 KPFA Local Board meeting. Keep in mind, please, that this was the second recent meeting at which Siegel advocated the selling of WBAI.

I don’t know if it’s true or not anymore, but a few years ago at least it was possible there were actual people who would buy WBAI for enormous amounts of money, and that part of the deal in exchange is that WBAI would get a new spot on the dial, admittedly, a less attractive one in the eyes of the person who wanted to buy it. Now we’ve always been extremely resistant about even thinking about ideas like that but given 1) the urgency of the situation, and 2) the fact that BAI really has a tiny number of committed listeners making that change doesn’t seem as radical as it might be anymore.

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Carol Spooner suggested that we sell WBAI and break up the Pacifica
network in her article “Time for an Amicable Divorce at Pacifica?”
(August 5, 2012)

Dan Siegel agrees with her proposal, below is his response, 8/26/2013:

Subject: Re: From Carol Spooner
Date: 8/26/2013 9:34:34 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time
From: danmsiegel@…

I agree with most of Carol’s ideas, with some modifications:

1. Each LSB (and the Archives?) should form a new nonprofit and seek 501(c)(3) status: KPFA, Inc., WPFW, Inc.
2. Each nonprofit should structure its bylaws to preserve the best aspects of the Pacifica structure, including listener members as prime decision-makers.
3. Pacifica transfers station licenses to the nonprofits. How decisions regarding the sale of any license or station and what happens to the proceeds needs further discussion.
4. Each station is responsible for its programming decisions and finances.
5. Pacifica remains as a network. Its roles, budget, and staff (if any) are based entirely on what the stations agree: examples might include programming initiatives and administrative needs such as insurance. Stations participate and pay for these initiatives as they choose.

Dan Siegel
Siegel & Yee
499 14th Street, Suite 300
Oakland, CA 94612Tel. (510) 839-1200
Fax. (510) 444-6698

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Dan Siegel, Conn Hallinan, Margy Wilkinson and Mal Burnstein, elected members of Pacifica governance, all organized and supported a fund drive competing with KPFA’s Winter 2010/2011 fund drive.

Siegel & the other three breached a fiduciary duty of undivided loyalty owed to both KPFA and its owner, the Pacifica Foundation. On August 29, 2012 an Appellate Justice asked SaveKPFA’s attorney Alan Yee: “Shouldn’t your clients have resigned if they wanted to compete?” The judge said to Attorney Yee, “[When your clients] take action that adversely affects what the board is trying to do; they should get off
the board.”

See article by Richard Phelps here:

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Dan Siegel to Daniel Borgström regarding a lawsuit

After the January 13, 2011 LSB meeting, as I was gathering up my stuff to leave, Dan Siegel, who had just been elected as a KPFA representative to the Pacifica National Board, approached me and said, “You are a chickenshit coward!” and “a fucking bag of shit!” he added as an afterthought. He proceeded to speak in depth and at some length about how I was a “fucking'” this and a “fucking” that, making liberal use of vocabulary that’s excluded from the FCC’s lexicon. (Siegel was apparently upset because he’d just been served papers for the Competing Fund Drive, Loyalty Suit.)

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Dan Siegel challenges Richard Phelps to fistfight at KPFA’s Local Station Board (LAB) meeting of March 7, 2010

Siegel: “You’re suing me!”

YouTube VIDEO of March 7, 2010 drama

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Siegel quoted by SF Chronicle (9/2/2008):

Dan Siegel, an attorney for Pacifica Radio, said management felt afraid when Foster refused to leave.  “Everyone is appalled at what occurred, but I’m not sure I would blame the person who called the police,” he said. “Our staff people have the right to work in a safe environment.”

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KPFT in HOUSTON — $1,000

A KPFT listener, currently a PNB member, recalls is first experience with Dan Siegel, some years ago. Siegel, who was at the time Corporate Counsel for Pacifica, happened to be passing through Houston, Texas, and he offered the KPFT LSB to give a talk on fiduciary responsibilities and legal duties of the LSB. The Texans
thought Siegel was giving the talk Pro Bono. They thought wrong.   A few weeks later KPFT received a bill for $1,000 from Attorney Siegel.

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Lawsuits against KPFA/Pacifica were poorly handled, costing hundreds of thousands of the listeners’ dollars. Attorney Dan Siegel (then General Counsel for Pacifica) is considered a very smart lawyer, so why did he handle these legal matters so poorly?

Dan Siegel was Pacifica’s legal counsel for years and during his reign [he] cost Pacifica hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, by practicing what appears to be a very self-serving and sloppy form of lawyering.

Shawn Casey O’Brien, KPFK Local Station Board Staff Representative and
member, Pacifica National Board

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Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2012 16:50:35 -0500 [11/26/2012 03:50PM CST] From: PhelpsMediation@aol.com

The conflict in the Paige v Georgia and Pacifica case was that Siegel was Foundation counsel and was defending Georgia and Pacifica in a case where as Foundation counsel he should have only been defending Pacifica. Without going into the pages of legal issues it is improper to represent both the company and the management employee in a case involving intentional torts such as sexual harassment and retaliation since there are clear areas of potential conflict if not actual conflict.

Richard Phelps

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prior to 2009, (when Siegel and his faction ruled Pacifica)

Date: Sun, 11 Nov 2012
From: Mitchel Cohen <mitchelcohen@mindspring.com>

it was Dan Siegel and his faction that imposed on WBAI the renewal of its onerous lease that he now blames on us! (Studio rent is $400,000 per year; antenna rent is $500,000 per year.)


Hundreds of WBAI listener-members and a few staff did not receive ballots in the 2007 election, when Dan Siegel was Chief Counsel for Pacifica. We brought this repeatedly to the attention of Siegel et al.  Instead of simply ordering that we be sent ballots, Siegel and the Board he controlled at the time refused to send them. (Many of us were opponents of Siegel and his faction, and we believe that that played into his decisions.) We had to go to Court, and won a Temporary Restraining Order that, among other things, directed Pacifica to send us ballots.

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Responding to Dan Siegel’s intervention in the LSB election
October 26, 2007
Dan Siegel, who was Pacifica’s Interim Executive Director, intervened in the Local Station Board election with a letter attacking candidates of the People’s Radio slate for their collective statement which they published in the KPFA voter pamphlet. Responses from two KPFA listener-voters, Virginia Browning and Steve Gilmartin are here.

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Open Letter from the Committee on Fair Elections
Bylaws & Rules Violated in KPFA Board Election of 2007

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excerpts from Casey Peters’ report
Siegel also entered Peters’ home illegally according to Peters

Dan Siegel, former Foundation Counsel and interim Executive Director of Pacifica Radio network, placed statements on the Pacifica and KPFA websites attacking candidates whom he opposed politically. This is a violation of attorney ethics and the bylaws of Pacifica. He also fired National Election Supervisor Casey Peters who tried to keep the election honest.

The following are excerpts from a report by the National Election Supervisor Casey Peters on the Pacifica 2007 Elections:

Nicole Sawaya had resigned — at least temporarily — and Dan Siegel was put back into place as interim ED [Executive Director]. At that point, the power really seemed to go to Siegel’s head and he started ordering me about in how to fulfill my duties. He applied intimidation regarding the still-pending certification of KPFA results, telling me that I would be fired if I did not do so promptly. The problem was that criteria for certification had not been met due to irregularities in the campaign, as will be explained later in this report.

Regardless of my desire to maintain absolute integrity in each of the local elections throughout the cycle, I was forced to capitulate in order to continue my work in administering the elections at the remaining radio stations. I realize now that this was an unforgivable error on my part and that I should have publicized the fact that the Interim Executive Director [Siegel] was using extortion to intimidate the National Elections Supervisor and wrongly influence the outcome of the elections to the detriment of members of the Pacifica Foundation.

Essentially, Dan Siegel in his dual roles as corporate counsel and Interim Executive Director engaged in threats and manipulation to unlawfully control the outcome of Pacifica elections. This constitutes the highjacking of the vote count. On the evening of March 13, 2008, I was about to leave for Los Angeles International Airport to fly to New York for the WBAI vote count when I received a message from Pacifica Chief Financial Officer Lonnie Hicks. Earlier in the day, he had confirmed that my accommodations in New York City were reserved. The new message said that Interim ED Dan Siegel did not want me conducting the vote count at WBAI and was firing me as National Elections Supervisor. Further information about the WBAI count follows later in this report.

A few days later, Dan Siegel entered my home illegally without any prior notice, and without ringing the bell, knocking on the door or announcing himself. Siegel startled my wife Marilyn, who was home alone, in our living room and she yelled at him to get out. His intent was to confiscate election equipment and materials without compensating me for work completed. Siegel had apparently been drinking, and sat in a rented SUV flashing his headlights into our bedroom. Marilyn called the police to stop the harassment. We seriously considered pressing trespass and assault charges, but felt any publicity about the incident would not look good for the Pacifica Foundation.

The full report on the Pacifica 2007 Elections by Casey Peters,
National Elections Supervisor (NES).

Excerpts from Casey Peters’ report.

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Siegel’s attempt to stop the examination of WBAI’s books by Carolyn Birden and Eve Moser.

This happened February 14 of 2008. Carolyn sent a notice the week before to WBAI’s General Manager and Business Manager that they were planning to inspect the financial records. While they were doing this Nia Bediako of the JUC called Dan Siegel, then the interim Executive Director and Corporate Counsel and he told Carolyn to cease the inspection, return all the copies she’d made, and that she was banned from the station.

See article by Carolyn Birden, with transcript of Siegel dialogue here.

Siegel later commented that he did this because it just didn’t seem right!

In fact, 2 1/2 years before that, in early 2005, PNB directors Patty Heffley and LaVarn Williams tried to inspect WBAI’s financial records, and were obstructed by the then Pacifica National Board and National Office. They enlisted the legal help of Richard Phelps to assert that the Pacifica bylaws and California Corporation law for non-profits gave board directors the absolute right to inspect the books.  See Analysis of Directors’ Inspection Rights here.

It took at least some weeks of obstructionism for them to be able to do this. When they did it, they discovered $65,000 worth of equipment had been given away to the WBAI General Manager’s father.

This established the already mandated right of directors to inspect, yet two and a half years later, on February 14 of 2008, Dan Siegel again tried to prevent it.

—  Mara Rivera

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During the LSB of October 16, 2010 Shahram Aghamir moved to amend the intro language for the Budget Resolution to include that it would be implemented according to the union contract. This would mean that layoffs would be done by seniority.  However, every SaveKPFA person in attendance including Dan Siegel voted that amendment down.  Why would SaveKPFA be against that “pro union” sentiment being added to the budget resolution that included the need for some staff reductions? They were trying to protect the jobs of some of their “insider” group. Some would lose their jobs if seniority were followed.

Article here.
Minutes of Local Station Board Meeting of October 16, 2010 here.

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At the April 16, 2011 LSB meeting the Save KPFA majority on the board passed a motion to censure Tracy Rosenberg for conduct outside of an LSB meeting. The procedural rules that our LSB must follow require any discipline for conduct outside a meeting requires reasonable notice for a hearing/trial where the person charged will be able to produce witnesses and present evidence in her defense. Tracy was not provided with this due process and was ambushed at the meeting.

See article by Richard Phelps here:
The minutes of that April 16, 2011 meeting show that Attorney Dan Siegel was present and voted in favor of the motion to censure Tracy Rosenberg without due process.  The minutes are here.

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Do the Bylaws apply to Dan Siegel?

On February 9, 2011, the Pacifica National Board (PNB) held a special session on this matter, and concluded in a vote of 10 to 7 that the bylaws do indeed apply, even to Dan Siegel. Siegel took this matter to court. (and the court ruled in Siegel’s favor.)

Date: Sun, 17 Jul 2011
From: PhelpsMediation@aol.com

Pacifica Bylaws do not allow anyone with a political office or
political appointment or declared candidacy for a political office to
serve on its governance bodies.

Dan Siegel violated the Bylaws by taking a position on Mayor Quan’s staff.

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Dan Siegel was on the board of the Oakland Unified School District for 8 years, from 1999 to 2006. While on the school board, Siegel helped bring armed police into the Oakland schools. Later, in January 2011, one of the armed police killed Raheim Brown.

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(Note: I was not in the Bay Area when this happened; here’s what I
could find and piece together)

In 1987 Dan Siegel joined the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office as chief of complex litigation. Siegel defended the cops who raided Lord Jim’s bar against a civil suit; Siegel won, the victims lost.

The raid took place on Aug. 31, 1984 when 20 shouting plainclothes officers charged into the ornately furnished bar at 1500 Broadway and arrested its owner. The bar’s patrons and employees were held for up to 90 minutes while they were searched and checked for warrants.

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May 9, 2014