Friday, September 25, 2015
Exile Report September 2015
Margy Wilkinson's Pacifica
Skids Off The Rails
Berkeley- 22 months after scheming to depose her predecessor and replace her with herself and secretly setting up a nonprofit corporation to scoop up one or more Pacifica broadcasting licenses or other assets, Pacifica's lame duck board of directors is facing the consequences and moving to mortgage real estate. In a startling national board meeting last night, reality overcame fraudulent financial statements trumpeting a "profit" for the year and chirpy election propaganda from Wilkinson's faction sent out just a day prior.
In short: (with a shoutout to former WBAI GM Chris Albertson whose NYC-based Pacifica blog captured meeting audio and provided this thorough summary in real time): Italicized background info provided by this publication.
• Auditor Armanino will not consider opening the FY2014 Audit until past due amounts of $14,000 are paid in full. (Pacifica incurred this bill for the filing of the 990 tax form with the IRS on August 15th. Pacifica's audited financial statement was required to be filed with the State's Registry of Charitable Trusts on June 30 2015).
• At present, the $25,000 required as a down payment for long-overdue elections is not available. (After the board of directors postponed elections from 2013 to 2014 due to long-delayed staff layoffs at WBAI-FM in New York, whose insane tower rental costs at NY's Empire State Building in a contract signed by the Siegel/Brazon faction in 2006 caused the NY station to bleed $500,000 a year in red ink for a decade. Wilkinson's board omitted elections altogether in 2014 and Pacifica failed to send ballots in August of 2015).
• Armanino cannot begin the FY2014 Audit, already long overdue with respect to regulatory requirements until stations provide the necessary documents: This process is no more than 70% complete at best, and KPFK at present cannot project completion of its information for several weeks – quite possibly as much as six weeks. (The last temp imported from the Accountemps agency quit after a week).
• Armanino has stated that it has no present interest in presenting a bid for conducting the FY2015 Audit
• WPFW continues to be unable to meet its financial obligations or to present financial information necessary to begin the FY2014 Audit.
• WBAI has no ability to present financial information for the FY2014 Audit, and was nearly taken off the air by the Empire State Building a few days ago for its failure to make even a token partial monthly payment.
• The National Office has no means to pay for health insurance for employees. Pacifica’s health insurance providers have formally stated that due to Pacifica’s past failures they will not be able to continue coverage if payment is not made in full, promptly and on time.
Pacifica in Exile will prepare manageable audio snippets from the meeting as soon as possible, but in the meantime the full audio recording (about 2 hours) can be heard here and the summary below will lay out the trajectory of the meeting from election shenanigans to mortgaging the foundation's real estate.
The meeting began and continues for over an hour with the board of director's obsession with their own election, without regard for the stated inability of the network to produce the budgeted resources to actually conduct it. Outgoing executive director John Proffitt, unwilling or unable to make an executive decision or to supervise the election supervisor as his job description indicates, punts a decision about whether or not to conduct elections in signal areas where there are not more candidates than available seats. This allows board members themselves, some of them candidates, and all of them preoccupied with advantaging or disadvantaging their own faction, to engage in a literal scrum. In Washington DC, where there are only 9 candidates for 12 seats, the board decides to skip the balloting and simply seat those who were nominated. In Berkeley, where there are 3 candidates for 3 seats in the staffer portion, the board makes the opposite decision, deciding the nominees cannot be seated and ballots have to be sent at the expense of the foundation. PNB treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert, who should be trying to protect the increasingly shattered bottom line, instead drives the Berkeley decision in the opposite direction since the hypothetical fourth candidate who failed to get papers in on time belongs to his own faction. Edwards-Tiekert noticeably and persistently attempts to intimidate the national election supervisor on the call, insisting the late filer "still has an appeal under consideration" although the national election supervisor stated definitively over a week ago that appeals filed in September, more than a month after nominations were closed, were *not* being considered. The candidate, Lewis Sawyer, has not publicly stated the appeal was filed nor why it was not filed immediately after nominations were closed on July 26th, but six weeks later.
After an hour of that, the board of directors moved into the acquiring of more debt. Charter Siegel/Brazon faction member (and possibly incoming executive director) Lydia Brazon proposed the board accept a loan of an undetermined amount from embattled KPFK GM Leslie Radford to meet the station's month-end payroll. The proposal was strange in several ways: most noticeably the sudden possession by Radford, formerly a community college adjunct instructor, of large sums of money. Radford told KPFK staff during staff meetings in August that she could not afford to live on half-salary for three months and would be taking on part-time work to pay her bills under KPFK's work reductions. Radford also told the staff at a later staff meeting on September 10th that she would be seeking loans from "board members" to make the payroll. The board accepted the loan, although it is not clear if Radford is providing her own funds or borrowing money from an undisclosed source and re-loaning it to Pacifica. The debt freezes the unpopular manager in place until it is repaid by Pacifica, despite the devout wishes of virtually all the KPFK staff for Radford's removal. Uprising host, Sonali Kolhatkar, who lost first her Indiegogo funds, then her Free Speech TV contract, and then 3 hours a week of airtime in LA, took to the pages of the UK Guardian, Truthdig, the Pasadena Weekly and the Los Angeles Times to excoriate Wilkinson's hiring of Radford.
KPFK's employees, who filed enough union grievances "to make your head spin" per the station's shop stewards, found out union dues subtracted from employee paychecks have not been submitted to SAG-AFTRA for the past six months potentially endangering their union membership. SAG-AFTRA has so far declined to suspend them due to non-payment of dues. SAG-AFTRA is taking Pacifica to arbitration for numerous contract violations and union busting activities including work reductions not negotiated with the union, withholding seniority pay from paychecks for at least 18 months, withholding employer pension deposits and now the looming loss of health benefits.
Finally, after controller Efren Llarinas laid out the disastrous bullet points described above, Edwards-Tiekert and Wilkinson moved aggressively as the meeting was ending to pass a motion (board chair Lydia Brazon giggled as the motion was put forward by Edwards-Tiekert and seconded by Wilkinson) instructing Pacifica to attempt to secure collateralized loans against assets or in practical terms, to mortgage owned buildings in LA, Houston and Berkeley. Executive director John Proffitt advocated for mortgaging the national office, quibbling with PNB treasurer Edwards-Tiekert who advocated for mortgaging the LA property which houses KPFK and the Pacifica Archives. The national office building probably isn't worth much due to extensive structural damage from the deterioration of the attached restaurant property which is in a state of severe disrepair after 15 years of vacancy, water damage and rodent infestation. Defaulting on a mortgage payment would result in repossession of mortgaged properties by banks and the uncompensated loss of millions of dollars in property paid for by Pacifica's donors.
The Pacifica bylaws protect the broadcast licenses from sale or transfer without the approval of the network's members, but do not similiarly protect the network's real estate. A voluntary bankruptcy, if initiated by the lame duck board of directors in the next few months, could result in the voiding of bylaws protecting broadcast license ownership by Pacifica's members and allow the transfer of station licenses to Wilkinson's nonprofit set up for that purpose or other board member efforts to acquire the assets.
Pacifica in Exile readers may write to the board at email@example.com.