Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Be careful what you click on...

This blog's original mission was to publish WBAI-related documents and information in hopes that a deeper knowledge of its inner workings might persuade loyal listeners to stick around and discourage the opportunistic abusers whose vandalism has reduced listenership to its lowest number ever. 

By pointing out the current management's ongoing ineptitude and the steady lowering of program standards, I naïvely imagined that we might hear improvements in content as well as technical quality, and that the worst offenders would be replaced by producers and hosts who possess the spirit and talent that once made WBAI such a significant, pioneering radio station.

A parade of PDs, some barely lasting a week, have been hired for a job that years of ineptitude and moral bankruptcy essentially rendered mission impossible. A major flaw in recent years has been the hiring and inexplicable retention of Berthold Reimers, conceivably the worst GM WBAI has had in decades, and it has become obvious to me that disease that's eating away at WBAI is the Pacifica Foundation itself.

Are there good people on the National Board? I believe so, but they are outnumbered by incompetent, misdirected people whose colossal blunders are not always, I suspect, accidental.

Take, for example, yesterday's allegedly accidental posting of five names that were meant to be kept secret. They are men who want to be the next Executive Director of Pacifica. Not finding any valid reason for not identifying these wannabes, I made an inquiry on the Pacifica Radiowaves list, where a Board member posted their names (as well as his own preference). One would think that I had sent out poisoned Valentines! Nailing, the keeper of that list, a person I had respect for, accused me of running a gossip-mongering blog (this one) and likened me to Rupert Murdoch!

The fact is that I had not yet posted those names here, wanting to first hear why they were secret. Later, fueled by all that hypocritical indignity, I changed my mind.  If candidates need to keep their Pacifica aspirations secret, I wonder what further aspirations they might want to hide once (and if) a small group of the PNB hires them.

Today, Tracy Rosenberg brought this up in her Pacifica in Exile news release:
(The orange highlights are mine --Chris)

Berkeley-Just when it seemed the process to fill the vacant executive director position at Pacifica Radio couldn't get more any troubled, another shoe dropped when board vice-chair Tony Norman, a DC attorney employed by the federal government, inexplicably carbon-copied his ballot indicating his choice for the position to a public Pacifica discussion list-serv with about 100 subscribers.

Pacifica has been trying to fill the position with no success for almost a year, after ousting the last executive director in March of 2014. The current chair of the board, Margy Wilkinson, a retired clerical worker, has been doing the job for most of the year on a part-time basis. She was briefly interrupted by former KPFK manager Bernard Duncan, who submitted a letter of resignation soon after taking the job citing a pre-existing plan to relocate to his native New Zealand. When the board finally selected a new executive director in January of 2015, the candidate, now identified as labor writer Bill Fletcher Jr, declined the position.
Instead of then turning to the second place candidate, who received strong support from many members of the board, the board of directors embarked on a brand new election, apparenty unwilling to abide by the results of the first. Norman's error, as he characterized it five hours later, was attributed to using his smartphone, although ballots were not due until February 18th. It isn't clear why Norman was handling confidential attached files on a smartphone on a federal holiday days before the deadline. 

Norman's actions appeared to set off some panic at Pacifica's national office, where there were reports of lawyers being consulted for advice about what to do. One of the receipients of the email, former WBAI GM Chris Albertson, who maintains a WBAI-focused blog website, went ahead and published the names of the candidates in the final pool on his site at WBAI now and then. Pacifica In Exile, also a direct recipient of Norman's email, will not do so, but is providing the email's time, date and senders and recipients for verification purposes here.  While we are less than comfortable withholding information released into the public domain, any member of the press or Pacifica member with legitimate reasons to want to confirm the full document may make a private request. Pacifica in Exile has no control over the actions of the other 100 recipients of Norman's email.
What Norman's ballot reveals is that he, a card-carrying member of the 2014 board majority, supports the candidate who ranked in the runner-up position in the process the board completed a mere 20 days ago. This suggests the latest maneuver of  "redoing" the ranking process to avoid offering the job to the second-ranked candidate, may have backfired on the board, by defrauding a candidate with significant support on both sides of the aisle, robbing Pacifica of qualified leadership. and potentally torpedoing the entire hiring process. This opens the question of whether the board of directors as currently constituted is capable of performing the functions of a nonprofit board or if things have deteriorated beyond that point.
Pacifica in Exile readers may write to the board at pnb@pacifica.org. They may want to suggest a year without an executive director is enough and it is time to make a legitimate job offer to a candidate who has now  been through three hiring processes between 2013 and 2015 and cease the shenanigans.
In other news, Pacifica's large pile of documents is due to the Attorney General of California in the correspondence audit launched by the Registry of Charitable Trusts on December 17, 2014. Among those documents will not be the long-delayed audit of the year ended 9-30-2013, which remains undone after 17 months. Auditor Armanino has declined to sign an engagement letter with Pacifica for the next fiscal year, which ended on 9-30-2014.
The board of directors may lose their liability (D&O) insurance on March 10, 2015 after an emergency extension last fall, unless the completed independent audit for the year ending 9-30-2013 is filed with the insurance provider. Under certain circumstances, lack of directors and officers insurance can allow directors to be personally liable for employment and derivative legal actions should Pacifica become insolvent and no longer able to indemnify board members with the nonprofit's revenues.
Pacifica's IED Wilkinson and CFO Salvador informed the board of directors that financial pressures on Pacifica's national office have increased due to the discovery of an unpaid legal bill for $90,000. The bill that was discovered later turned out to be the bill for Pacifica's defense against former WBAI program director Bernard White's 2011 lawsuit for racial discrimination after his 2009 termination. White's lawsuit was summarily dismissed in 2012. The characterization of the bill as "discovered" is odd as Wilkinson received a full legal expenses summary listing all expenses by case and firm and the balances due on them,  as a member of the board in December of 2013, which she appears to have failed to review at the time or in the year following. The assertion the bill was "unknown", which was repeated numerous times, continues the pattern of providing distorted information to members of the board of directors, who in many cases, have not been on the board for very long.
Financial statements, which presumably are being sent to the Attorney General, contain omissions including missing broadcast tower utilities and rents at three out of the five stations, missing major donations, loans unrecorded in the books, and public statements that continue to be demonstrably inaccurate, including the CFO asserting one of Pacifa's largest vendor contracts ended in September of 2013 instead of September of 2012, 6 months after being provided with the original contract with the 2012 date. This audio clip from a finance committee meeting provides a snapshot in a sustained Q+A between the CFO and committee member Bill Crosier, a PNB member from 2010-2012 who recently volunteered to take over as the local treasurer in Texas. 
The tower cost confusion is most acute in the case of NY's WBAI whose situation vs a vs their 15-year lease at the Empire State Building (till 2020) is affected by negotiations that appear to defer more than $2 million dollars in remaining liability on the lease to unknown dates on uncertain terms. Texas station KPFT continues to have unresolved broadcast issues. KPFT is now in the middle of their sixth stay to operate at half power and unable to have the broadcast license formally renewed until they are able to broadcast at full power. Discussions about what to do have included a suggestion from PNB treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert that KPFT take out a mortgage on their building, discussion of a national on-air fundraising effort by all five stations, and suggestions of a possible permanent power downgrade, although that reduces the value of the station license by millions of dollars over a $165,000 equipment replacement need.
Winter fund drives underway or recently completed at all of the stations were disappointing, with KPFT reporting $207,000 on a $280,000 goal and KPFA reporting $542,000 on a $630,000. Partway through their fund drives, the other three stations were reporting 10-30% shortfalls to date. The shortfalls will exacerbate the cash crunch of the past fall when $500,000 in expense reductions were mandated for the network's two large California stations, KPFK and KPFA, both of which are now fundraising from dawn to dusk for more than 90 days per year or 25% of their total daytime airtime.
The national board's February 11th meeting was largely taken up by a ponderous multi-hour process of appointing board members to 2015 officer positions and commitees. As usual, the contested positions focus on the board's finance committee which develops annual budgets for all 7 units of the nonprofit.  For the board chairmanship, and the interim executive director position if the board never makes a permanent hire, George Reiter and Margy Wilkinson will once again oppose each other in a repeat of the 2014 tied election Wilkinson she claims she won on the basis of a mismarked ballot that gave her a "fifth place ranking" when there were only two candidates. KPFK listener representative Lydia Brazon and affiliate director Janis Lane-Ewart are candidates for the vice-chair position. Lane-Ewart was executive director at the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) in 2013.
In other business, the 2015 board finally passed the DC station budget the 2014 board neglected, leaving the budgetary process for the year that began 10-1-2014 finally completed 131 days into the new fiscal year. The board also approved a casual extension of the $156,000 loan to NY station WBAI (indemnified by the 501c3 Pacifica Foundation) from board member Lydia Brazon's employer after Pacifica defaulted on the first installment payment due in October of 2014. The new agreement, which also contains no terms for late or missed payments from Pacifica nor an arbitration clause, pushes the payments into six installments rather than five and slates them to now start in September of 2015.


  1. I'm confused. You say you changed your mind about revealing the names of applicants, but I don't see the names.

    1. Scroll up... to the heading of this entry.

    2. Got it. But Bill Fletcher Jr.'s name doesn't appear to be on the ballot.

  2. Just curious how a station like KPFT purchases a transmitter. Do they have to pay in full up front? Is it time payments? Is it purchased directly from the manufacturer? Can Santa Clause help?

    Seriously? A radio station can't go on the air and raise $165,000? That's pretty sad.

    The current WBAI transmitter was purchased by you, right, Chris?

    We know the demographics of WBAI listenership, but what about the other four stations? The same average listener of sixty-six years of age?

    Anyway. I was thinking, which is something I do now and then. Pacifica should try to get some of their better programs onto indie shortwave stations. It's cheap as hell and could provide some national and international exposure for their Pacifica. Jesserich would be good for that, I believe. Hey, at $20 or $30 per hour, it's worth a shot.


  3. Cash on the barrel. Typically radio station pays up front for big equipment. Some vendors, if you have an established relationship, might allow 30 days, if you have an established account with them or are huge, like CBS, which would have established credit arrangements. I can assure you no business that runs a credit check on Pacifica will get any where near them. WBAI and T should replace their transmitters. The newer solid state transmitter don't need tubes replaced regularly, are easier to maintain, and more efficient (lower power bill.)

    1. When I bought the current transmitter (not sure if they ever replaced it) in 1966, I borrowed $20,000 from Lou Schweitzer. The move to the ESB and hookup was paid for by them.

      'm not sure if we could have been given credit back then, but we were not even close to being in WBAI's current bad shape.

      If the management weren't so inept and the programs were not mostly crap, I think WBAI might have been able to find some outside help.

    2. If WBAI were to ever get a credit line, they'd probably but Bernard White in charge of it...


    3. Well, they put Berthold Reimers in charge of the station, didn't they?

      Now, of course, White is back (courtesy of Murillo, I believe) and the idiotic attempt to give "community" a color continues as opportunistic airheads darken and de-brain WBAI, edging it over the cliff.

      They may, at best, obtain a discredit line.... a footnote in radio history.

    4. You know how the word "legacy" is used to mean something old and pretty much dead, like Windows 98 or Mac OS 8 are legacy operating systems? Well, I have decided WBAI is a legacy radio station. Time has passed it by.

      It appeals to an ever aging and shrinking group of listeners and won't be brought up to date or upgraded. In fact, bringing back Bernie White is a step back. So much time dedicated to slavery, Malcom X, etc. is a focus on things that are now history. Socialism came down with The Wall. The revolution came and went, and whitey was, indeed, on the Moon.

      Simply put, the people who run WBAI are still eternally re-living the 20th Century and haven't moved into the 21st. They are hopeless. No, WBAI won't become a retro station for people who like antiques.

      Legacy radio WBAI


    5. I agree. Pacifica will become a footnote in which WBAI gets a mention. Hell, it's almost that now. What really gets me is the colossal stupidity that permeates the organization, and how this many dummies keep finding each other.

    6. I'm not surprised. The lack of variety of people due to beg-a-thon calls being handled by a call center instead of at the station by volunteers, limits potential station staff to whom the loons already there know, which are fellow loons.

      That is why there won't be anymore Lopates, Samuels, etc. There is no pool of diverse people to choose from anymore. You think an idiot like Forlano ever lifted a telephone receiver for WBAI? If she ever did a thing to help WBAI, we'd never stop hearing about it. Maybe she should start by resigning...

      And people scratch their heads wondering why WNYC AM & FM are steadily rising in the ratings, while political talk radio is declining. Forget the content. The fact is that the WNYC content is delivered in a rational and intelligent manner. I guess people in the NYC market are tired of howling extremes.

      On another note. WFDU is in marathon mode this month. Seems they got a power increase affirmed by the FCC. Could be interesting, since they have gospel, jazz, blues, etc. on the format. I guess more people will be able to tune in and not rely on just WKCR. WBAI? HAHAHAHAHA