Wednesday, May 6, 2015
When isn't disgrace disgraceful?
The following sobering piece by Stephen M. Brown addresses, among other issues, the racism that has escalated under Mario Murillo's tenure as iPD and is possibly giving WBAI the final push over the edge to oblivion. Originally published elsewhere, it is reproduced here with permission pending.
Dear WBAI Supporter –
I am perplexed and saddened that WBAI’s Program Director, Mario Murillo, has invited two people back on the air who had long ago been sent packing from WBAI in disgrace, and for good reason. When queried, Berthold Reimers, who as general manager has final authority over who and what gets on WBAI’s air, denied responsibility, claiming, “Gee, I’m only the general manager. What could I do?”
The first disgraced returnee is Don Rojas, who as a former General Manager helped inflame racial and ethnic antagonisms among staff and listeners. He resigned after protests over his incessant absences from the station, his failure to capably perform his job, and the mysterious disappearance of several of the station’s newly purchased Apple laptops, which -- it was discovered by examining shipping receipts -- had been surreptitiously “diverted” to his father-in-law’s address in New Jersey.
The second disgraced returnee is Bernard White, a former WBAI Program Director. After being caught and forced to confess that he gave thousands of dollars from a WBAI fundraiser to a friend, White was eventually dismissed for failure to capably perform his job, and for abetting hate speech and committing libel on the air. In response, he sued WBAI and Pacifica, claiming damages of $500,000 because – as he alleged – he had been fired for being Black.
Never mind that he had been fired by a female African American general manager, on the advice of an African American human resources director, with the consent of local and national boards that were at least 50% people of color. Or – even more telling -- that the person who replaced him was also African American.
Despite the fact that his claim could not even pass the laugh test, Mr White gambled that Pacifica would do what it always did when it was sued – i.e., settle for a quick $50- or $60,000 payment to avoid having to pay the $125,000 deductible for legal bills that was required by Pacifica’s insurance company before it would start picking up the tab. But White had gambled wrong. Pacifica’s then-Executive Director refused to play that game. She wouldn’t pay a dime to settle White’s fraudulent claim and went to court. The judge agreed that the claim was meritless and threw it out, writing a scathing decision that exposed White’s lawsuit for what it was – a cynical and blatantly dishonest attempt to scam the foundation for his own benefit. White vs Pacifica. Nevertheless, this fraudulent lawsuit cost WBAI and Pacifica hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs, which they could ill afford.
Both Rojas and White, after damaging WBAI and leaving in disgrace, have been brought back by Program Director Murillo – not because they will help WBAI – but because they are his buddies. Once again, cronyism has trumped competence at WBAI. Thanks, Mario. Thanks, Berthold. With friends like you, WBAI doesn’t need enemies. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.”
Stephen M Brown