1. What are the core issues?
At a time, when the fate of Pacifica Foundation and its five station network hangs in the balance, a group of people sitting on its national board are attempting to consolidate their power with reckless disregard of the consequences. On May 26, they attempted to replace a locally produced program The Morning Mix with a syndicated program from L.A. Protests erupted.
The previous Executive Director Summer Reese, many National Pacifica Board directors and others are opposing these moves and attempting to preserve the network. Reese, who has a 3-year contract was dismissed by the Pacifica National Board majority on March 13, 2014. From March 17 through May 13, Reese did her job as Executive Director while supporters defended the Pacifica National Office in Berkeley 24 hours a day against attempts to displace her physically.
On May 12, Alameda Superior Court Judge Ioana Petrou issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Summer Reese from entering, remaining, blocking ingress into or egress from the Pacifica National Office, pending a new preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for June 3, 2014 at 9am in Department 15.
How did this come about? In February of 2014, the power balance on the Pacifica National Board changed and the new one-vote majority voted to dismiss Executive Director Reese. The motion to dismiss came like a bomb at the end of a late-night executive session of the board. The vote was taken with no discussion, no prior notice, and without a human resources person or legal advisor present. For a list of the Pacifica National Board members who voted to fire Summer Reese, click here.
2. What is the crux of Pacifica’s financial situation?
When she was purportedly fired, Summer Reese could have taken her three year, $105 thousand dollar a year Executive Director contract to court. She could have won herself a nice vacation at the expense of Pacifica’s listener-donors. But she didn’t. She knew that a hasty transition coming out of a power grab by the majority board would bring Pacifica much closer to the day when there would be no choice but to sell licenses or buildings. . . or even go bankrupt. This is because the network, and all the stations which are part of it, are in a precarious financial situation.
As Executive Director, Summer Reese has been working to clear up years of deficit spending and poor financial practices at multiple stations in order to put Pacifica on a sound financial footing.
To date, the majority of the Pacifica National Board has not revealed any plan beyond the consolidation of their power. In this vacuum, some speculate that the majority intends to sell multiple station licenses. Obviously, Pacifica must be controlled by those who will resolve the many deep-rooted issues and restore financial stability.
3. I’m a listener or producer at WPFW (or KPFA, KPFT, KPFK, WBAI). I’m a progressive activist. I work in progressive media. Why does this problem matter to me?
As Robert McChesney writes, “Whatever your first issue of concern, media had better be your second, because without change in the media, progress in your primary area is far less likely.” We cannot mount a strong opposition to the current conservative climate and the grip of the oligarchies on our national dialog without a strong progressive media.
Pacifica is the only progressive non-commercial radio network in the U.S. It includes five sister stations in major urban areas and over 170 affiliate stations around the nation. The loss of Pacifica’s broadcast reach would be a disaster for the spread of radical solutions to U.S. economic and social problems.
The Pacifica Foundation is a 501(c)(3) which owns the licenses of WPFW in Washington DC, KPFA in Berkeley, KPFT in Houston, KPFK in Los Angeles, and WBAI in New York City. Although the stations are mostly autonomous in their programming, their finances are integrated and they share administrative services such as insurance, corporate counsel and audits. Contracts for national programs, most prominently Democracy Now!, are handled by the Foundation and Federal grants come to the network as a whole. If the network were to separate into individual stations with their current finances, it’s highly likely that 3 or more stations would fail. The remaining stations would also need to restructure and likely undergo a time of insecurity before they could rebuild.
4. Why don’t the two sides of this fight sit down to mediate and/or negotiate their problems?
There are ongoing attempts to bring the two sides together. So far, neither side has taken the necessary steps.
Elected KPFA Local Station Board listener representative Samsarah Morgan, asks you to take the time to honestly assess the claims of both sides. The two parties are not equal and the issues are serious.
An alternative dispute resolution process is a common part of the legal proceedings. This could take the form of legal mediation, non-binding arbitration or neutral evaluation. Something like this is most likely to happen late this summer before the August 2014 trial.
5. Who are the “players” and factions involved?
This is a national conflict that has been playing out for many years. Each of the five sister-stations have roughly two factions on their local station boards. When four local station board members from each station are elected to the national board each year, they are faced with two ongoing caucuses.
The caucus group that is resisting the majority board members is called Pacifica Directors for Good Governance. It includes members from all five stations as well as both affiliate directors elected by Pacifica’s 170 affiliate stations. Its members are part of United for Community Radio at KPFA, The Indypendents at WBAI and The Committee to Save KPFK at KPFK. There are also members from WPFW and KPFT. The members can be seen here.
The members of the one-vote majority caucus who voted to fire Summer Reese in an attempt to consolidate their power can be found here. This caucus is currently made up of Save KPFA, Grassroots KPFK and the Justice and Unity Coalition (JUC) from WBAI. There are also members from WPFW and KPFT. Margy Wilkinson, who became chair of the Pacifica National Board in a disputed vote, is one of the leaders of this caucus. Brian Edwards-Tiekert, a KPFA staff member and Jose Luis Fuentes, a KPFA listener representative, Lydia Brazon, KPFK listener representative and Cerene Roberts, a WBAI listener representative, also play major roles.
Bernard Duncan, the former general manager of KPFK, was appointed interim Executive Director of the Pacifica Foundation on March 20, 2014 by the same Board majority who attempted to fire Summer Reese. He took charge on May 13, 2014.
The law firm of Siegel and Yee has represented the majority directors in court. Partner Dan Siegel has a long history with Pacifica in multiple executive level positions. Jose Luis Fuentes, who currently sits on the Pacifica National Board, is also an employee of the firm. For details, click here.
There are many individuals throughout the country who have an interest and are taking an active role. To read their names and join them in signing a statement protesting the risky firing of Summer Reese, go here. See below for other ways to get involved.
6. Why did those supporting Summer Reese’s contract take this matter to court? Are listener donations being used for attorney fees? What is the legal situation?
According to KPFA listener director, Janet Kobren, the Pacifica Directors for Good Governance went to court because they felt the actions of the majority directors were likely to collapse the entire Pacifica Foundation by opening it up to major lawsuits, jeopardizing insurance coverage, risking CPB funding and endangering the license of WBAI. Her entire statement is here.
For the full complaint, go here.
For a summary of the complaint, go here.
All fees for Amy Sommer Anderson, the attorney for Pacifica Directors for Good Governance, are being privately raised.
The majority directors have hired attorney(s) to help them. Details and how much of the fees will come from listener donations are unknown. Pacifica’s Directors and Officers and Liability Insurance policy, as is typical, does not cover litigation between members of the Board of Directors. It’s likely most or all of the defendants’ attorney fees will come from listener money.
Eight former members of the Board of Directors have lodged a complaint with the California Attorney General’s Office, urging her to investigate and preserve the network for its listener members. You can read their complaint here. None of the costs of this complaint will come from listener donor money.
7. Who is Summer Reese and why have so many people supported her?
Summer Reese and her entire family are well known in Los Angeles for their untiring and fearless work in the immigrants’ rights community, the Occupy movement, as well as their work against war, police brutality, the death penalty and many other social justice causes.
Reese served on the Local Station Board of KPFK in Los Angeles before she became a member of the national board and, eventually, Executive Director of the entire Foundation. She has been working to correct the lack of internal financial controls and to introduce industry standard accounting practices throughout the Pacifica network since she first took the reins as interim Executive Director in August of 2012.
In 2013, when Pacifica station WBAI faced total financial failure, she made the tough decision to lay off most of the WBAI staff, negotiated a severance package for the laid off workers, and helped WBAI General Manager Berthold Reimers move the station to a less costly location. The severance packages have been paid and, although still financially challenged, WBAI remains on the air.
Although Pacifica and its five sister stations are in dire financial peril and have major equipment challenges, Reese is committed to keeping the network together, increasing its listenership and improving its broadcasting ability.
Reese worked 18 months as interim Executive Director before being offered a three year contract as Executive Director in the late fall of 2013.
8. How can I help?
We need people to join us to defend the fiscal health and integrity of the Pacifica Foundation Radio. Join those who have signed the Statement in Support of Summer Reese’s Contract. Join our mailing list by signing up in the column below. Keep yourself updated by returning often to this website. Talk with us on on Facebook: United for Community Radio. Or drop us a line at: email@example.com
Join us. We’d love to have you.
9. How can I talk to you about information on this site or my opinions about these issues?
Talk with us on on Facebook: United for Community Radio. Or drop us a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org