Monday, January 26, 2015

Dingeman: Dump the Governance!

Jim Dingeman has been grumbling with and at us for a very long time, but his spurts of anger at the WBAI situation has often been somewhat diluted by interjected, well-meant but irrational solutions.

It is difficult for any rational observer of the current situation to disagree with the following thoughts, posted on Pacifica Radiowaves by Jim today. It's a bit late in the game, but many of us ignore that in our zeal to see the "bums" thrown out, as Jim puts it. A few years ago, when some of us first saw this coming, there was still time to get WBAI back on track—or so we thought—but the extent of the Pacifica National Board's damage turned out to be beyond our imagination. The underhanded maneuvers that put Margy Wilkinson in the iED seat was the reality check, but we continue to vent, not so much to affect restoration (now mission impossible) as to avoid seeing the abusers' power grab succeed.

The listening audience was way ahead of us when it decided to go elsewhere for the enlightenment Pacifica used to offer.

Here is what Jim Dingeman had to say. Most of it has been said before, by him and others, but—coming from the inside, without the excuses and rationalizations we have been fed by Mitchel Cohen and Berthold Reimers— I think it bears repeating here.

At the meeting of the WBAI CAB at 60 Wall Street today it became obvious that the lack of elections for the LSB in two years has had deleterious effects.

We have been stuck as participants to the grid lock of the LSB in terms of policy issues. It is my opinion that for 14 years the LSB's have NOT seriously questioned the problem of why the audience at all the stations continues to be pathetically small or slowly shrinking. The later, the JUC and their allies, are certainly more responsible for this situation than anybody else since particularly in NYC they dominated the tone and control of the airwave in various ways since the early nineties.

To me, this is due to the simple fact that the nature of the product, the content of the air, has not and will  not be questioned or dealt with in any meaningful fashion by the present players of both the Independents and the JUC and their allies nationwide. Bringing back in NYC a updated version of the grid that existed in the nineties may offer a short term improvement but IMHO is not sweeping enough  to create an audience large enough to permanently sustain a budget larger than currently in play. Far more creative and drastic measures are needed to turn this around.

This requires a immediate attention on all levels to why the current programming mix cannot grow an audience here in NYC to at least a weekly cume of 250,000 and even greater...500,000. The present number of 100-120,000 is simply inadequate and we all know that regardless of our clash of visions.

The last time the audience in NYC reached even close to 400,000 was after the Gulf war. That was a fleeting number that reflected the fact that at that time WBAI or any Pacifica station was still the alternative go to for many when a crisis erupted. That situation no longer exists.

With the growth of digital media, the decline in traditional media of all types and the perpetual lack of willingness on the national and local level since the overthrow of the old board to deal in any serious way with the gradual decline of audience this situation has simply slowly but surely tumbled downhill. 

Any rational look from the perspective of folks in California at their state AG office will be a sobering look at the amalgamation of facts that they will assemble. For example, anybody running a fiscally starved non-profit would rightfully be taken to task for several years running not working hell bent to get money from the CPB.

At this point seeming stupidity moves into the sphere of calculated demolition. There is simply no excuse from any perspective for the possible loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue being rationally justified at this point in time. This goes for all those in management or governance positions who have willfully allowed this situation to come to pass.

The next step is to figure what additional practical actions are needed to solve this problem. It is clear to me that the leadership of both sides in the embittered governance structure need to be taken to task on this by the tens of thousands of people who have gladly and willingly supported the stations for years with their hard earned money. This needs to be a national outcry and campaign to simply throw the bums out. —Jim

January 24,2014 Exile's Newsletter

January 24, 2014
For Immediate Release 
Lying To The Listeners

Berkeley-At the January 22nd national board meeting, it was revealed Pacifica has defaulted on a loan from board member Lydia Brazon's employer, Aris Anagnos. The $156,000 loan was approved by the board in September with the first $25,000 repayment due on October 28th, 2014. The board violated California Corporations Code in September by having interested director Brazon voting favorably on the transaction. Brazon stated repeatedly that she had not voted, which was a lie as this audio clip of the September vote reveals.  It's not clear why an elected representative would lie about a vote recorded on audio. Brazon did not reply when provided the audio recording of her vote.  It provides a disproportionate level of influence for a single board member to mediate on behalf of an organization which is in default to her employer.

The board was assured by CFO Salvador the Anagnos loan payments would be made on time, by allocating the funds as the first priority after each WBAI fund drive. Salvador's statements can be heard here. WBAI recorded $405,000 in income in the October/November period, so the repayment of the Anagnos loan was not only not the first priority, it was not the fifteenth priority. Neither Salvador nor Wilkinson replied to inquiries as to why the default occured and the money was not allocated as they said it would be.

The loan agreement, which was casually drafted with no attorney review, provides an option for Pacifica to pay early, but states nothing about what happens if Pacifica does not pay. The lack of an arbitration clause reserves Anagnos' right to sue in the event of nonpayment.

A hint as to why the default happened can be found in this brief clip from PNB treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert. In it, he observed that the Anagnos loan would "go away" in bankruptcy court. Board member Hank Lamb, an in-and-out member of the rogue board majority has stated publicly several majority board members intend to take the organization into bankruptcy court. The debt to Aris Anagnos is not the only thing that would "go away" in bankruptcy court.

The 2014 majority has been moving rapidly to install a new executive director to replace Margy Wilkinson prior to the state investigation of Pacifica's accounting and recordkeeping. Wilkinson has held the position since March of 2014, briefly interrupted by the interim appointment of Bernard Duncan, who resigned and left the country 75 days after being appointed. The board convened a 8+ hour phone call on Sunday January 18th to interview some number of finalists, although many board members were unable to attend the weekend meeting. It's unlikely most stayed on the phone for eight consecutive hours. The board imposed no requirement that board members be present for the interviews before voting, so the voting currently underway may be measuring support for candidates some board members have never met or conversed with at all. 

The audit by the California Attorney General is certainly one of the pressing challenges a new executive director will have to deal with. Concerned that prospective executive directors were not being informed, PDGG-affiliated board member took it upon themselves to individually provide the candidates with the Attorney General's document request. The note in full can be found here

"I feel strongly that it is and was the responsibility of the Board of the Directors, and the search committee it assembled, to notify the candidates of this and any other possible investigations and to secure from them direct answers to the candidates' ability, willingness and any experience they may have of guiding a not for profit organization thro " ugh a significant state investigation. And that the Board of Directors should ascertain from each candidate their best thoughts on how they would proceed based on the current conditions that exist – with full disclosure". 

The rest of the January 22nd meeting was dedicated to the 4-months-late-but-better-than-never budgets for the fiscal year that began on October 1st. Because the budget drafts have already proven inaccurate, the drafts were peppered with "provisos" addressing the ways the budgets have not panned out. Here's a station by station recap:

KPFT-Texas: The station's budget was passed with a proviso stating any extra funds raised beyond fund drive goals would be dedicated to repaying unpaid network services.  The proviso is totally irresponsible as the Houston station is on its sixth consecutive temporary stay from the FCC to operate at half power and unable to renew its license until it replaces its failing transmitter. Not directing any surplus funds to replacing the equipment verges on criminal negligence. The station could permanently lose half the license power, an asset loss of millions of dollars, over a $160,000 piece of equipment that can be secured for a $50,000 down payment.

WBAI-New York: The station's budget was passed with half a dozen provisos. The conversation touched on the station's need for a broadcast studio after being asked to leave the City College studios they have been using since Hurricane Sandy destroyed the station's facilities. The studio build-out is unbudgeted, due to the unwillingness of the national finance committee to redo the budget as they should have based on current information. The new studio is being built on the cheap, so cheap that it will not be soundproofed, which is likely to have a negative impact on the station's sound quality for a while. GM Berthold Reimers, who briefly joined the PNB call, reported that for the third consecutive time, the New York station's fund drive receipts were negatively impacted by a program director initiative for "programs, not premiums". Reimers reported the same for earlier "programs, not premiums" efforts by program directors Andrew Phillips in 2012 and Bob Hennelly in 2013.

WBAI's departure from the Great Plains/Microsoft Dynamics accounting system to a freestanding Quickbooks program has already resulted in sizable discrepancies. The reports issued from the local station showed $95,000 more in revenue for the months of October/November than the reports issued from the CFO - 3 months after the fact. A motion by director Kim Kaufman that contingency plans for WBAI should wait on accurate financial statements was defeated by a national board vote, although its hard to see how a contingency plan could be developed if no one knows how much money is coming in. If the rate of discrepancy continues at this pace, the two accounting systems will be $600,000 apart by the end of the year.

KPFK-Los Angeles: The budget was acknowledged to have two major problems: the first being the use of the wrong fulfillment rate (the station's historic average is about 80%, but the budget draft upped that to 90%) and the second leaving out call center expenses for the 3 hours of daily programs where pledges are processed via the Berkeley station (Uprising,Letters and Politics and the Evening News). Despite these errors, the budget was approved with a proviso for $250,000 in staff reductions. The reductions are directly linked to the station's budget mistakes and the inability to responsibly cut costs due to error-filled and incomplete accounting obscuring the station's financial situation. KPFK has had no financial statements detailing the station's expenses for the entirety of 2014.
KPFA-Berkeley: Some numbers in the budget were based on the receipt of bequests from members in their wills, which while they do happen, do not represent an assured source of income to pay ongoing bills. The $200,000 dropped into the budget on that line item was not based on notification of any actual bequests so the station fell into a severe crash crunch when no one died and has been asked to make $250,000 in staff reductions.

National Office: The 2013 national office budget allocated $70,000 for the 2013 fiscal year audit. That audit is still uncompleted . The national office has admitted it does not have the money that was allocated to pay for the 2013 audit (having spent it on other things) and will be taking it from incoming network services in 2015. This will use up the money allocated for the fiscal year 2014 audit.

WPFW-Washington - WPFW does not have a PNB-approved budget for this fiscal year. The board postponed voting on it and will leave on January 29th without ever providing a budget for the DC station. Board member Benito Diaz tried to put forward a motion that consultant contracts be terminated at all stations, including WPFW, before staff reductions, but the board adjourned without considering his motion.
At KPFA's local station board meeting on January 24th, the meeting featured a long written report from GM Quincy McCoy in which he announced a few things:

1) The return of the community fund drive room is canceled. and the station will return to full call center services at a cost of $60,000+ a year, switching from tea party outfit Comnet to Cox Cable-subsidiary Telerep on the East Coast, meaning KPFA's pledge calls will be routed to a DC call center.

2) The station's fundraising troubles were per McCoy attributable to Pacifica's mission i.e. covering ongoing events during fund drives (to the limited extent the station did) causing the station to miss fundraising goals. McCoy refers to the "PNB cuts", although the reason for them is the inflated projections for bequests in KPFA's budget and the addition of new operating expenses like call center services and Reuters news wire subscriptions.
3) The station's new website is delayed due to technical problems.

NOTE: The Pacifica in Exile Newsletter is prepared by Tracy Rosenberg and posted here for your information. The opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by me (but more likely than not). --Chris

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Nothing ever adds up at WBAI/Pacifica

With Mitchel Cohen telling conflicting stories regarding WBAI's current financial status, a California AG audit scheduled to begin in February, and Berthold Reimers painting rosy pictures that inevitably prove to be fakes, interest in seeing real figures has heightened. 

When Reimers had to give a quarterly financial report at the recent WBAI LSB meeting, he spun the usual fantasy and admitted to not being comfortable with the accounting software used by Pacifica. As usual, he raised more questions than he answered, so Tracy Rosenberg made some comparisons between his figures and those  recorded by Pacifica's controversial CFO. 

Tracy Rosenberg posted:
The spreadsheet given out at the WBAI local station board meeting by GM Berthold Reimers, presumably generated in Quickbooks, has rather astoundingly different income numbers for WBAI in the first two months of FY2015 than those provided to the PNB by CFO Salvador and the NFC in the "income recap document" on January 8th.

Somehow WBAI booked $95,322 dollars more in October and November of 2014 than the national office recorded as of the first week in January 2015:

Reimers October revenue: $155,373
Salvador October revenue: $128,796

Reimers November revenue: $245,531
Salvador November income: $176,788

Reimers two-month total $400,905
Salvador two-month total $305,584

At this rate, after 12 months the two sets of books will be $600,000 apart.

I assume that Reimers is correct as he's on the ground in New York, so why is the national office missing $95,000 months after the fact?

Or is the Quickbooks ledger generating inflated numbers?

I don't know the answer, but you can't keep going with funny numbers. 

At some point, you have to know exactly how much money there is and stop playing "pick a number out of a hat".
Here, attached by Tracy, is a link to a PDF file containing the Income Recap and
WBAI Financials in Excel format.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The mis-firing of Sidney Smith

WBAI's shameless,  bungling "management" knows  how to collect high salaries, but when it comes to operating a radio station...

This is another post regarding the outrageous allegations and treatment Sidney Smith has endured after decades of excellent work. With so many unanswered questions and Reimers and his gang dodging them, the subject refuses to go away, yet the cowardly opportunists who called the shots are still driving the station farther into the ground. 

As might be expected, the Pacifica National Board and its double-edged iED are too busy with their own schemes to pay any attention. Even people in the Atlantic Avenue bunker deplore this abuse of power.  Here, as posted to the Pacifica Radiowaves listserv January 21, 2015, is R. Paul Martin's point-by-point response to Jim Dingeman's angry demand for answers. I have posted it as a PDF file. R. Paul's censorship has all but killed the infamous BlueBoard at this point, but—as I have previously said, he has his good side, too, and one of them is his staunch defense of colleague Sidney Smith. To read the latest installment, which contains new details, please click on the "PDF file" link above.

For earlier posts on this subject, use this link:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The humor WBAI lacks...

If you have heard WBAI's CCCP show, you may agree that its attempt at humor is somewhat pedestrian. KPFA does not have that problem so, for the third time, here is their Sunday show, Twit Wit Radio. Before they dumbed down the audio menu and reduced the audience to a limited few, I think this program would have done well at 99.5.