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New KPFA General Manager? Audio Linked

by Virginia Browning
Audio link of public comment -- 2/3 of whom urged KPFA board NOT to recommend Lemlem Rijio as permanent KPFA General Manager -- plus explanatory text/observation.
KPFA's November 17 board meeting was open to the public for less than an hour so the public could comment before the board went into executive session (closed to public) to decide which candidates for General Manger would be sent on to new Pacifica Executive Director Nicole Sawaya.
21 speakers, approx 30 min total for link)

Many of us felt and feel certain that Lemlem Rijio, current Interim General Manager, is one of the candidates. She has been "running in the press," including misleading and false statements made by the woman some call "Lemlem's Cheney" -- Interim Program Director Sasha Lilley. I will try to get through this WITHOUT name-calling such as that above. Just the facts.

Many of us have some extremely frustrating and negative experience with Lemlem, and attended the meeting in order to urge the board NOT to send her name forth for confirmation as permanent GM. There is, we're told, at least one other candidate. The board members are not allowed to reveal the names of candidates to non board-members. I'm writing this because I'm hoping I can convince others to send emails or statements to Sawaya urging her not to confirm Rijio as General Manager. (I'm pretty sure Rijio's name was forwarded along to Sawaya, though I haven't confirmed it. If not, it will be, and if later, most likely with even less chance for alternatives.)

I've been watching the LSB for over 2 years. Lemlem has been the Interim GM for much of that time. Before that, Roy Campanella was General Manager for a year or less. People may remember that Campanella was accused of sexual harassment, and eventually evaluated negatively by the LSB and resigned.

I had questions about Rijio even then. She was one of the people making specific charges of sexual harassment against Campanella. Her charge was that he asked her for a date, and when she told him that wouldn't be appropriate as he was her supervisor, he said something such as "we could do something about that." Others said Campanella, new to the area and an ardent film-attendee, asked anyone and everyone nearby to attend films with him. Also, it seemed obvious that Campanella's less-than-appropriate come-back to Lemlem was probably not serious as he soon after promoted her.

I certainly hope I'm a feminist, and know that not only is sexual harassment real and serious, but often dismissed and trivialized. I would never wish to support such behavior.

On the other hand (in my thinking about this particular situation), there seemed at the time 2 important considerations. First, KPFA has had a hard time attracting General Managers as it has been reportedly a very difficult or volatile place for a General Manager to work. Secondly, how many women HAVEN'T experienced inappropriate sexual innuendo or cluelessness in this culture -- perhaps especially women over the age of 30? It seemed to me, given the above 2 particulars, that perhaps some form of mediation, counseling, etc. should be attempted should the situation warrant it. Also, the story was that Campanella had riled many KPFA staff by getting very firm about drinking and drug-use anywhere near the station, and that his use of positive reinforcement or whatever they call it in manager talk -- his positive motivational tools weren't all they could be. Many said the sexual harassment issue was trumped up or exaggerated to boot him out.

The KPFA board was set to evaluate and perhaps dismiss Campanella soon anyway. One thing that "bugs" me about this is that if the staff and management would work WITH the board, I think this would have been done without all the drama that ensued. As it turned out, this (their recommendation for dismissal) is what happened, and their reasons had nothing to do with sexual harassment. (In fact, two investigations were made of Campanella on those charges; and despite their finding no evidence of sexually inappropriate behavior, he volunteered to go through training to remediate any lack of sensitivity in this regard, and to enter any counseling as deemed appropriate.) Very recently, ex-Pacifica Executive Director (Rijio's supervisor) Greg Guma gave an interview in which he stated that it's become part of the culture at Pacifica to make charges of sexual harassment in order to get one's way. I think if he'd wanted to exclude Rijio from this charge, he would have done so, although he was nowhere near when she and about 14 others made their joint accusatory statement against Campanella.)

This was the only experience I had with Rijio then, watching her testify before the local and I think national board. (I remember some woman testifying during that time before the Pacifica national board. It was before I recognized Lemlem, though I thought I remembered that's who it was. Right after she testified Campanella called her name and tried to speak with her. I don't know whether he caught up with her in the hallway.)

Later Lemlem attended several board meetings that I observed in her capacity as Interim General Manager. The General Manager is supposed to attend and give a report at each board meeting.

The reports she did give seemed to me both overly positive (less "real" than Campanella's had seemed), and less detailed. Her demeanor was polite, but the content of what she contributed seemed skimpy.

Later, she missed more and more board meetings. Chandra Hauptman, one of the board members, asked Rijio in an extremely polite if not overly polite way to please answer the messages she had left: by email, phone, in person, to get together to discuss important issues. Rijio's apology for not having done so was always very polite, but meeting after meeting a similar exchange occurred. I DO want facts, not just name-calling. So when members of the board told me she and other management didn't respect or want to work with the board, I wanted to see it for myself, not just go by the hearsay of some who may have approached her for all I knew in too challenging or confrontational way. But I could see with my own eyes that Rijio, while with her mouth speaking of working together, seemed to making every excuse not to meet with board members who were respectful, considerate, etc. etc.

Meantime, I've read statements by Sherry Gendelman, an ally of Rijio's; have seen Matthew Lasar (writer of the anointed history of Pacifica, another ally of Rijio's) make a very disturbing, I think destructive statement at the one semblance of a bylaws-mandated "Townhall" meeting within the past two years; and incredulously seen in print statements by Rijio's close ally Sasha Lilley that completely contradict observable reality. I still admire Lilley's work on the show "Against the Grain," and it is hard to believe myself the sense I get that she is wielding an "end justifies the means" club in the service of getting the power she must feel she and her management and staff allys need and deserve.

The buzzwords often used to describe the style of Rjio/Lilley are "lack of transparency, accountability, and atmosphere of secrecy." I'm trying a little bit here to break the buzz-words into meaningful meat. I do want to say, as my actual workday nears and I see I won't finish this now, that the buzzwords, each one, has more than adequate substance behind it.

Perhaps, you might say, those People's Radio upstarts just drove these people to extreme measures…(Not that we who do want openness at our station, otherwise known as "transparency," not that we want managers who are incapable of dealing with such a "threat" as frustrated buzzword-speak in a more skillful way.) But, though I would prefer that some (not all, and not always), in People's Radio express themselves in more or civil or "just-the-facts-ma'am" ways, I can see that the onslaught of what they're up against at times precludes minute exact analysis without bowing to the temptation to shorthand into buzzwords.

I prefer a style that says, "I won't give up on you if you will make some steps toward us too."

But while that is ideal, the fact is that we are all volunteers here with lives to live. The sense of "stonewalling" by this management at the station is real. I don't see those steps having been taken by management and staff towards listeners really, except listeners in certain groups with funds, power, etc. Yes, KPFA needs money. But KPFA needs to be a "voice for the voiceless" as well. COMMUNITY radio, please… (Now I can hear the Lasar-ally dialog shaping up on this -- the problem with this management is -- there IS no forum for this dialog -- no Townhall meetings, etc. unless we volunteers work SUPER DUPER hard, with NO pay, to beg and scrape for that to happen. And -- it hasn't yet.)

I see I have barely scratched the surface here.

Anyway, here's the audio. Sorry about my own idiotic speech near the end. I was bending to be conciliatory, but realized the minute I shut my mouth on the 90 seconds given that saying "leave her as interim" was also an imprisonment, as we have just emerged from an election in which this management bent over backwards to make sure their own slate of candidates won. In other words, as a very moderate board member has said, "these guys [Rijio, Lilley, and their allies] make the Bushies look like amateurs," and soon a new board with an overwhelming majority of Rijio supporters will, if she is left as interim manager with no other names sent to Sawaya, likely be hailed and sent forth in a month or two as the overwhelmingly first choice of the new board, the board itself elected in an election criminally flawed.

I'm hoping others with some details can fill in some of the stonewalling, obfuscating etc., (and I'll try to get back to this too), and importantly, contact Sawaya and urge her NOT to confirm Rijio as permanent manager for our station. By the way, the national Pacifica board, whose delegates come from our LSB, will now be free to vote for the new bylaws proposal that wants to overhaul the whole election process. Given that Gendelman and the Rijio management have publicly stated the station should have minimal if any listener input, this might well mean a station so walled-in with its own agenda, that the creative interaction with those many in the KPFA signal area longing for a voice on its airways would be as permanently squelched as on the commercial network. Yes, I know Lilley, Gendelman and others have worked for years "on the left," but the left is a B I G place. Which parts will be left out with only a few making the decisions?

I'm serious about not wanting to give up before dialog, and about my discomfort with some of the tone of People's Radio at times (and doubtless my own tone seems to match when I'm strapped for time) -- but you CAN find out some details if you want more at the People's Radio website:

or send specific questions to
daniel41[a] (a friend and fellow board-watcher) or to
callresponse[underscore]radio [at]

Whether you agree with this or with the doubtless countless anonymous detractors soon to post comments here, please do find out as much as you can and send Sawaya comments (or call -- I noticed the reception seemed very welcoming on the phone) urging her not to confirm Rijio.

510 849-2590

Add Your Comments
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
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Jim Halpin
Thu, Dec 20, 2007 10:38AM
Virginia Browning
Tue, Nov 20, 2007 9:33PM
Tue, Nov 20, 2007 2:36PM
Anthony Garrett
Tue, Nov 20, 2007 2:53AM
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