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Dan Siegel and WBAI
Following Dan Siegel's lie-fest about Pacifica in last night's KPFA LSB Candidates forum in which he repeatedly scapegoated WBAI, this article stands as a useful corrective. Siegel never begins his account of WBAI's travails until 2009 -- and Mitchel Cohen wonders why.
Dan Siegel should be proposing positive ways to expand KPFA's membership -- which has greatly diminished during his faction's control of the local board -- and stop scapegoating WBAI.
Siegel does not begin his account of WBAI's travails until 2009 -- I wonder why? It was, after all, WBAI's mismanagement up until the middle of 2009 that was the problem, and it was Siegel and his faction on the Pacifica National Board and national office who hired the destroyers and promoted their policies that were and still are undermining the network.
We at WBAI are still digging ourselves out from under an amazing amount of mis-management, terrible "planning", very real physical violence, and theft at WBAI that had been hammering us while Siegel was Chief Counsel and interim Executive Director at Pacifica.
In 2009, we succeeded, finally, in replacing the old Siegel-backed crew at WBAI that had caused so much damage to Pacifica. The following year, the new management was able to begin reversing the serious problems they'd inherited.
They'd inherited the following:
- at least $65,000 in essential equipment that WBAI had purchased had been "diverted" to private individuals, one of whom was a relative of the former Siegel-supported management. That was covered-up by one of the very officials Siegel continues to defend in his letter! Please recall that until 2009, Siegel's faction controlled the Pacifica National Board. He personally -- with the support of his Board -- pulled every trick in the book to block the Directors' inspections from looking into the $65,000 in stolen equipment, after which the PNB decided to sweep the whole matter under the carpet.
- more than 7,000 listeners had ordered and PAID FOR premiums over 2007 and 2008, but those orders had never been fulfilled (though the station accepted their money).
- the premiums department at WBAI was a wreck. When I personally went to investigate, I found literally thousands of CDs strewn, unlabeled, all over the floors, desks, and radiators! WBAI lost thousands of members as a result.
- there was more than $800,000 in pledges at WBAI each year that were left "sitting on the table" and never collected. Instead of pushing his managers to collect those funds, Siegel made excuses for their incompetence. Since we installed the new management, we have at long last increased the fulfillment rate income by over 10 percent (around $200,000 per year).
- thousands of dollars in cash had been appropriated and "misused" by a sticky-fingered manager supported by Siegel, and awarded to management's friends.
- violence at the station was rampant; reports of physical abuse occurred on a daily basis.
- Management purchased premiums from its friends, as a kickback operation to its faction's supporters.
- Management allotted prime office space for no rent to its friends doing private business from WBAI's studios.
- it was Dan Siegel's faction on the National Board that imposed the renewal of the onerous rental lease on WBAI, and which many of us opposed -- a lease that Siegel now incredibly blames on us! (Studio rent is $380,000 per year; antenna rent atop the Empire State Building is approaching $500,000 this year.)
All of these and a lot more occurred prior to 2009, when Siegel and his faction ruled Pacifica, which is why he begins his "analysis" only after that date. It was only when we finally were able to put into place new management at WBAI (not solidified until 2010-11) that each of these problems began to be seriously addressed and rectified.
Let me give one more example. Hundreds of WBAI listener-members and staff did not receive ballots in the 2007 election, when Dan Siegel was Chief Counsel for Pacifica and its interim Executive Director. We brought this repeatedly to Siegel's attention. Instead of simply ordering Pacifica to send us ballots, Siegel and the Board he controlled at the time refused to send them. We had to go to Court; we won a Temporary Restraining Order that, among other things, directed Pacifica to send us ballots.
Instead of following the Court's order, however, Siegel and Pacifica continued to play games with members' right to vote. He mired the Network deeper and deeper into an expense of more than $175,000 to Pacifica's attorneys, just to justify not sending us ballots! He lost, but Pacifica was left holding the bill.
Why were Siegel and Pacifica at the time acting so viciously, incurring huge expenses that the network had to pay? At the same time Pacifica and KPFA were pleading poverty, the management Siegel and his faction controlled at KPFA and supervised by KPFA's then-treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert (BET for short) "forgot" to deposit a $375,000 check, while claiming "there's no money!" (In fact, BET, Siegel and the KPFA GM met with the donor when the check was given to KPFA. Do you think they really just "forgot" about such a large sum?)
The new management teams at WBAI and Pacifica inherited that huge mess from the previous administration; it has taken several years to clean it up, and we're still not fully out of it yet. But we're way ahead of where we used to be. WBAI management has been excellent in addressing (and improving) at least that much.
But, no thanks go to Brian Edwards-Tiekert -- a KPFA paid programmer -- who proposed a few years ago that WBAI and the other Pacifica stations drastically cut staff. The National Board -- at that time controlled by Siegel and his faction -- voted to implement Brian Edwards-Tiekert's proposal. WBAI was forced to cut 35%(!) of its staff, bringing it down to around 1/2 the salaries of KPFA and crippling the station.
The very cuts Brian proposed were the cuts that he went to the barricades over when they affected his own job, instead of other people's.
So it is very strange that, all of a sudden, Dan Siegel "discovers" that WBAI is in trouble and "draining the network". It was the mismanagement of those supported by Siegel's faction that set those wheels in motion and that the new management is trying to reverse. We are slowly succeeding in doing so.
OF COURSE WBAI has to move to cheaper studios -- I've been one of those most vociferous about that. Still .... If WBAI had the same very low costs for studio space as KPFA or KPFK, we'd be swimming in funds. WBAI now takes in around the same in contributions as KPFA. Looked at another way, why is it that KPFA is in such serious straits under the Siegel faction, since it has around $900,000 less in overhead expenses than WBAI?
I believe that the best chance for improving KPFA lies in saving -- not breaking up -- the Pacifica network. And so I urge you to reject Siegel's blame-game, and vote for the United for Community Radio slate in the elections to the local station board.
Chair, WBAI Local Station Board (for ID only)