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info on conflict at Pacifica
Here are some messages put out on March 17 which may help to inform KPFA listeners and others about the events now taking place at the Pacifica National office, and at the recent PNB meeting which attempted to fire the current Executive Director, Summer Reese.
Standoff In Berkeley: Executive Director Tries To Return To Work 3/17/14 (yesterday)
This morning, the padlock on the door of 1925 Berkeley Way, the home of the national progressive radio network, Pacifica, was removed so that locked out workers could return to work. Executive Director Summer Reese, who was offered and signed a three year employment contract in January of 2014, returned to her duties this morning despite a highly-contested board vote to fire her for no provided reason at a secretive late-night board meeting.
As events unfold, it appears a confrontation is building at the 60-year old radio network as Reese reports disputed chair of the board Margy Wilkinson who grasped control of the chairmanship via a mis-marked ballot) and less than a month afterwards proclaimed herself the new executive director, has brought her husband to the network's headquarters and is confroting Reese and the network's national staff as they try to resume network operations.
About a dozen people are present.
Reese is reported to have said that listener-sponsored station KPFA next door, has refused to release their books which are in a state of disarray, unreconciled since October of 2012 and with tens of thousands of dollars in event income unaccounted for.
One of the bones of contention between Reese and the board has been a chief financial officer hired by the board, who Reese believed to be concealing information, and who was “rehired” by the rogue board after his dismissal on January 2.
Another bone of contention is the stated desire of several board members associated with the coup to sell the license of New York station WBAI. There are unconfirmed rumors of unofficial negotiations between the officers of the new board and a corporate media outlet, although the full board has not been informed.
Former board vice-chair Bill Crosier (and current chair of Houston Peace and Justice Center)commented:
My biggest question is: With the mad rush to ignore the Pacifica Bylaws and California law, and to terminate the ED with no notice and no reasons given, and with talk from some Directors about sacrificing WBAI to keep from having to sell the buildings and other property of Pacifica stations and to allow deficit spending at those other stations, what's next? It's pretty scary to think about.
March 17, 2014
For Immediate Release
(From) Summer Reese, Executive Director . . . . .
Pacifica Radio National Headquarters Open After Board Coup: Executive Director Cites Financial Irregularities and Rumors Fly About A Secret Deal
At the national headquarters of Pacifica Radio, the nation's oldest listener-sponsored radio network and the owner of 5 radio licenses, KPFK in Los Angeles, KPFA in Berkeley, WPFW in Washington DC, KPFT in Houston and WBAI in New York, a late-night board coup to remove the CEO seems to have backfired.
The small office was entered this morning by 4 national employees and the executive director, who removed a padlock installed the previous day, and informed staffers that business would continue as usual. The executive director cited possession of a duly-executed contract and referred to the late-night secretive board action as being illegitimate. The contract signed by board secretary Richard Uzzell required a work performance evaluation and cited what cause for termination would be. According to 10 current members of the board of directors, no work performance evaluation had been performed and no reason was provided for the attempted firing or has been to date.
Meanwhile rumors have been flying around the country that a small segment of the board has been in negotiations with an entity associated with Comcast news channel MSNBC to take over WBAI's license, an ironic state of affairs for a network that has long accused the corporate media of “banging the drums for war”. At the moment, it is impossible to verify one way or the other.
On the morning of the attempted firing, it is reported that Berkeley station KPFA next door had refused to turn over its financial records for an annual audit and the books had not been reconciled for up to a year. 2013 board treasurer Tracy Rosenberg had identified $70,000 to $80,000 in missing event income as early as August of 2013, but was unable to receive a clear answer as to the problem, which was dismissed by KPFA staff and the KPFA local station board as a “data entry backlog”.
At the moment, there appear to be about a dozen listeners observing the situation at the office and the disputed board chair who had declared herself the interim executive director Thursday night is sitting on the first floor with her husband as the national employees proceed with their jobs.
Reese sent the following memorandum [yesterday] morning from her embattled office:
Memorandum -- Please distribute to staff lists immediately
To: Pacifica station managers, staffers and programmers
From: Summer Reese, Executive Director, Pacifica Foundation Radio 3/17/14
I want to thank all of you for the work that you do everyday to keep Pacifica running.
Recently, we have experienced internal conflict between the board of directors and the executive director. I know that when these conflicts are expressed publicly, it creates a lot of organizational stress and makes it hard to concentrate on your work.
I want to assure you that I am in possession of a signed and valid contract for three years of employment from the Board of Directors and that I fully intend to complete that contract and work with all of you to make Pacifica bright and strong again.
The illegitimate actions of board members have, over the years, created a great deal of turmoil and financial stress on all of our stations and workplaces. It is time for that to come to an end.
The charges that I am going to seek hundreds of thousands dollars are ridiculous. What I am going to do is go back to work immediately and you will join me in doing so.
I deeply regret that the infighting on the board was not kept in the boardroom where it belongs.
I look forward to getting back to operating five precious and much-loved community radio stations. Thank you.