Saturday, May 2, 2015
For whom the whistle blows...
I was preparing to applaud Kim Kaufman for blowing the whistle on the Pacifica Board's rogue majority when Tracy Rosenberg issued her latest Pacifica in Exile update. It says it all much better than I could, and it contains valuable links.
One of these captures how Ms. Kaufman handled the outrageous kangaroo court scenario that played out in public at this week's PNB meeting. We can't bring you the continuation of that, which took place in the executive session that followed, but we are told it was heated. Clearly, the rogue faction that pushed its way into the power lead is now running scared, so we who want to see Pacifica restored owe Kim Kaufman our thanks.
May 2, 2015
For Immediate Release
Pacifica's Shame: From Battling Witch Hunts To Embracing Them
Berkeley-Consistent with their long-standing pattern of retaliating against staff and board members who blow the whistle on financial malfeasance, the rogue board majority joined by KPFA's UCR representative Janet Kobren who cast the tiebreaking vote, kicked LA listener rep Kim Kaufman off the Pacifica National Board for the alleged crime of supposedly releasing financial data sent to California's Attorney General in response to the state's investigation of the radio network.
Things have changed at the 66 year old radio network since it gained national prominence in 1960 when KPFA programmer Bill Mandel declared "I want the lights on, precisely; I want the fullest glare of publicity on this committee's activities" and refused to cooperate with the HUAC 'kangaroo court'."
Now the board of the radio network that used him as an example of their bravery and iconoclasm for 55 years convenes their own secret kangaroo courts and ducks the glare of basic transparency.
You can sign a petition objecting to Pacifica's kangaroo courts and the expulsion of members for trying to figure out Pacifica's tangled finances here.
Kaufman, who requested copies of Pacifica's filing of 5 years of financial data, was accused of sharing the information with the board's treasurer from 2011-2013 and its board chair from 2011-2013. In full disclosure, the Pacifica in Exile editor is one of the parties mentioned as an alleged recipient. Kaufman, who had filed an individual complaint with the Attorney General after the investigation was launched, and notified her colleagues she had done so, should have been protected by California's whistleblower statute, which prevents retaliation against individuals for reporting concerns about financial mismanagement.
Kaufman said that financial data sent to the Attorney General for the period she sat on the board (Jan 2014 to Feb 2015) was inaccurate and contained significant omissions and suspected that was also the case for the 2010-2013 period when she was not on the national board. California Corporations Code specifically states the accounting books and records of a (501c3) public charity are not off-limits to any member of that organization.
6333. The accounting books and records and minutes of proceedings of the members and the board and committees of the board shall be open to inspection upon the written demand on the corporation of any member at any reasonable time, for a purpose reasonably related to such person's interests as a member.
Kaufman, whose longstanding statements that her home station KPFK was going off the rails financially were proven correct by the LA station's recent crisis, which was announced in April:""KPFK is faced with the possibility of having to shut down as it faces $300,000 in outstanding debt. Some of which would affect our ability to continue operations. We are going to be starting an emergency fund drive". The LA station will go into fund drive again in the next two weeks, attempting to raise another $750,000.
In it, she states "I whistleblew because I believe management was obstructing justice by not complying with the AG’s request for documents. I submitted readily available documents to the Attorney General’s office which they requested but management did not send. I had over 20 financial reports which had been disbursed to the PNB and elsewhere and were not sent to the AG".
Witch hunts of listener reps have been a staple shenanigan of the Siegel-Brazon faction for years when they needed additional votes, beginning with attempted recalls of NY LSB members Mitchel Cohen and Steve Brown in 2010, which were stopped by outside counsel, KPFA LSB member Tracy Rosenberg in 2011-2012, which was stopped by the Alameda Superior Court after the local Save KPFA faction racked up more than $35,000 in printing/postage and legal costs, and another attempt to recall Kaufman in October 2014 on a different set of allegations. All had failed until last night when the board dispensed with parliamentary procedure, attorneys and any semblance of order at all and simply retreated into secret session to brawl with no witnesses or evidence. Houston Board member George Reiter, a former chair, described the entire process as out of order and contrary to parliamentary rules. Kaufman was prevented from presenting witnesses despite her request to do so in the board's open session.
Kaufman's final statement in the board's open session before they went into secret sessioncan be listened to here.
Sign the petition to tell Pacifica's rogue board that a war on whistleblowers is a contrary to the core values of Pacifica Radio.
Kaufman's colleague on the board, NY listener representative Steve Brown, was also considering going down the whistle-blowing path after his requests for a list of Pacifica's accounts payables for the last two audited years were flouted, with both Pacifica's CFO and auditor declaring that such lists (which would itemize the amounts listed as $2.7 million at 9-30-2012 and $4 million at 9-30-2013) would not be made available. Brown's full public statement can be found here.
In it, he states "I ask you, Margy, what is the director of a California public corporation to do if -- after receiving numerous credible allegations of significant financial error (or significant financial misbehavior) in the management of the foundation’s funds – he is refused the documentation that will enable him to investigate those allegations in accord with his fiduciary responsibility? Indeed, when the very persons who refuse to provide this information are the same auditors, chair of the board, interim executive director, and chief financial officer who are supposed to make this information public, but instead, astonishingly, seem to be colluding in hiding it from the public?
Financial statements released to the board's national finance committee, which purported to provide information about current accounts payable, disclosed only $1.1 million in total debts, despite reports of $4.017 million in payables and $1.184 million in additional accrued liabilities at 9-30-3013. The national office divison, which the auditor claimed was $3.2 million dollars in debt 18 months ago, disclosed only $648,000 in debts. Public matters like the network's September 2014 assumption of a $165,000 loan from real estate magnate Aris Anagnos and multiple 2014 lootings of restricted funds which must be paid back, were omitted from the reports.
Former Board VP Bill Crosier, now volunteering as Texas station KPFT's local treasurer, was hushed up at Tuesday's finance committee meeting which adjourned rather than allowing Crosier to continue questioning Pacifica's CFO. At the meeting, the CFO disclosed Pacifica had still not filed 2013 financial data with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 11 days after the deadline for submission of 2014 financial data, and more than 10 months after the extended 2013 deadline expired. The missing audits have already cost the foundation $2.2 million dollars in public media funding and triggered a state investigation. 2014 audited financial statements are due to the Attorney General Registry of Charitable Trusts in 60 days.
In other news, Pacifica's long-delayed delegate elections finally received a tentative schedule. Unfortunately, the proposed schedule, which opens candidate nominations on June 15th, does not comport with California law by extending the gap between the date of record and the mailing of ballots beyond the 60-day legal limit. The entire board of directors will have outlasted their 3 year delegate terms by December. Half the board including self-appointed chair/IED Wilkinson have already overstayed their three year terms by more than a year. They are not permitted to extend their own terms without a vote of the members.
New ED John Proffitt begins work on May 11th. He's going to have his hands full. Proffitt's first major decision will be the appointment of a permanent general manager for troubled Los Angeles station KPFK, which has been in severe financial stress in 2015. He is expected to begin reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates for the KPFK general manager position directly on his arrival in Berkeley next week.
KPFK has been spending a substantial amount of money on promotion, putting bus ads and billboard around the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and has not yet been able to recoup the investment with dwindling fund drive returns. The station also engaged in an exensive experiment with the use of corporate call centers charging .90 cents a minute to process pledge calls during the fund drives instead of free station volunteers.
At New York's WBAI, old managers are reappearing as new programmers with fired PD Bernard White, whose racial discrimination case was thrown out of court after costing Pacifica $125,000, and resigned GM Don Rojas, who diverted WBAI-owned computers and equipment to his father's business in Teaneck, NJ claiming WBAI had donated the equipment to his own former for-profit organization, returned to the airwaves. The NYC station built a non-soundproofed broadcast studio in Brooklyn which just began operating after being evicted from its on-air studio at City College. The station still does not have a lease at the Brooklyn space and has been unable to extricate itself from a catastrophic tower lease at the Empire State Building where it is "accruing" $37K in unpaid rent every single month. The station remains $165,000 in debt to a board member's employer. This apppears to be the board majority's enactment of "organizational Darwinism", attorney Dan Siegel's expression for letting some stations in the network suffer in order to endow others with the proceeds from their sale or swap following financial crisis, a kind of disaster capitalism for radio.
In Berkeley, a crowdsourcing effort on the Indiegogo platform flopped, collecting 11% of the goal. The campaign, which gave no gifts to donors, focused on KPFA's needs for "paint, rugs and chairs" as well as elevator repairs and mold cleanup. The station, which recently benefited from deathbed bequests, would be showing a 2015 operating deficit without the gifts. KPFA lowered listener support goals for the April/May period by almost $200K, so it will rely on one-time gifts to meet ongoing operating expenses this spring. The station's next fund drive begins in three days.
Pacifica in Exile readers may write to the board at firstname.lastname@example.org.