Friday, November 6, 2015
Elusive Bequest—Now you see it, now you don't.
The 60 Pages They Won't Show You
Berkeley- Thursday night's Pacifica National Board meeting focused 2 of its 3 hours on the bequest to the Pacifica Foundation deposited into KPFA's operating account in the spring of 2015 by board chair Margy Wilkinson. The conversation occurred in two parts. In the first hour of the meeting board members jockeyed around agenda items calling for the release of documentation on the bequest diversion. At the end of the hour-long agenda setting session, the document release motion ended up close to the top.
In the third hour, the board voted to release a 60 page document package about the bequest diversion to the network's five local station boards, but in closed session and not until November 14th.
The conversation that ensued was dramatic, if a bit difficult to understand for observers without any access to the documents being discussed. Berkeley board member Jose Luis Fuentes, now a resident of Southern California, fiercely objected to the release of any documents on the grounds that doing so would cause the candidates affiliated with Wilkinson's "Save KPFA" slate in Berkeley to lose the local board election. PNB treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert, after failing at a last-minute attempt to table the motion prior to the vote, asked if "the correspondence" would be included in the document dump to the local station boards, and was told that it would be. NY board member Stephen Brown objected vociferously throughout on several grounds: firstly that Wilkinson herself should not be allowed to vote on the document release and secondly, that the 60 pages of documents should be sent to local boards before their meeting dates to allow for review, rather than presented in the middle of the meeting without time to read the material, but the board of directors supported neither of the points he raised.
After the meeting, a board member referred to the documents as "incriminating", but the board continues to invoke the mask of confidentiality regarding the contents of the 60-pages. The basic information is that a $400,000 bequest to Pacifica Foundation (Radio) was deposited into KPFA's operating account and presented as a restricted donation for the exclusive use of supporting Berkeley operations, when no such restriction was attached to the bequest. The bequest was one of about a dozen in a will dividing up $4 million dollars between several national nonprofits, including Democracy Now, once Pacifica's marquee public affairs program.
This is not the first time Save KPFA-affiliated board members and management staff have done strange things with large bequest checks. In December of 2009, auditor Tony Pohl discovered in a routine audit check that a money market account listed as holding a $375,000 restricted bequest for KPFA actually had no money deposited in it and a balance of $0. A frantic search for the money uncovered a 15 month-old expired check made out to KPFA for $375,000 sitting in manager Lemlem Rijio's desk. A picture later uncovered showed now-PNB treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert and former PNB chair Sherry Gendelman accepting the check on KPFA's behalf 15 months earlier in September of 2008.
29 days before the planned end of board elections, less than 50 people have reported receiving ballots and less than 900 people nationwide have used the online voting codes sent out by email on October 22nd. Bulk mail is generally delayed by election-related mail and while a small trickle of ballots have started to show up, the majority of the network's 55,000 voters may have to wait as long as another week to get their ballots, meaning that they'll have to hustle to review materials, fill out the ballots and mail them back to arrive in Oregon by December 5th. Pacifica in Exile's nationwide election recommendations can be found here.
A few candidates have already bitten the dust with WBAI Indy caucus member Frank Lefever discovering he was erroneously classed as a board member elected in 2010 instead of in 2012 and was therefore ineligible to run, and Save KPFA-affiliated candidate Hilmon Sorey dropping out after long-time activist Barbara Lubin, director of the Middle East Children's Alliance, identified Sorey as the board chair at the Oakland Museum of Children's Art when that institution notoriously canceled a scheduled exhibition of children's drawings from the Gaza Strip after being pressured by the Jewish Federation and other pro-Israel organizations.
Another Save KPFA-affiliated board candidate, attorney William Campisi Jr, whose practice focuses on patient arbitrations largely in the Kaiser health care system, had an unfortunate venture into litigation in 1993, when he argued a personal car repair spat over his Mercury Sable with Broadway Ford all the way to the California Court of Appeals, where the court delivered this nattily worded smackdown:
The filing of a minuscule car-repair case in superior court is an inexcusable abuse of the judicial system, which vests in the superior court the authority to hear weightier matters than a front-end alignment. Responsible attorneys should not contribute to the clogging of our superior court docket by, for instance, confusing the suspension of their car with the suspension of habeas corpus".
The judgment can be reviewed here.
In other news, KPFK Background Briefing host Ian Masters briefly broke his composure on air to say he was "restrained from talking about anything real", but was then hushed up by his pitching partner, program director Alan Minsky. Masters recently took down his dissent site "savepacifica.com", probably after pressure from management which was disclosed by another dissent site "KPFK United Staff", which has remained up and running. Gag rules have a long and troubled record in Pacifica history and seem once again to be cropping up at the Los Angeles station. The Masters/Minsky exchange can he heard here.
Charlene Muhammed, who has been an unpaid replacement for Uprising host Sonali Kolhatkar after GM Radford refused to air Kolhatkar five days a week, following instructions received from volunteer coordinator/roommate Adam Rice to make program changes, issued a long statement of her distress at being called a "scab". Without even a trace of irony, Muhammed goes on to implore voters to support the LA wing of the Siegel/Brazon faction. totally unaware the Berkeley wing of the Siegel/Brazon faction ran an aggressive campaign against unpaid staff in Berkeley, frequently using the scab epithet for the Morning Mix hosts, diverting $61,000 in pledges away from KPFA's fund drive to their own slush fund, and marching around in front of the station with a giant plastic fake check.
KPFK GM Radford was a Pacifica National Board member in 2010 and never once spoke up in opposition to the scab epithet and voted against salary reductions and AM unpaid programming at KPFA. In other words, Radford the board member colluded with the Berkeley wing of the Siegel/Brazon faction in demonizing people like KPFK's Charlene Muhammed at KPFA. Radford's board successor Lydia Brazon also never objected to labeling KPFA volunteers as "scabs", failed to condemn the diversion of funds away from the fund drive by Wilkinson and Siegel (which the California Court of Appeals condemned in this preliminary ruling) and directly connived with Wilkinson in her plot to take over as the executive director in the spring of 2014, a move which directly led to the removal of all unpaid KPFA staff and community programming from the entire KPFA morning drive time in the spring of 2014.
The rampant hypocisy and lack of a coherent vison for Pacifica has been the Siegel/Brazon hallmark for more than a decade with the LA wing declaring that all paid programming should be eradicated and the Berkeley wing declaring the opposite, and union-busting charges alleged and then denied depending on whether the Siegel/Brazon faction were the ones in charge at the time. Ojectively, the 20+ grievances in arbitration with SAG-AFTRA now are more than double the size of any labor action at Pacifica since 2001. The Siegel/Brazon schizophrenia has been a large contributor to Pacifica's unending turmoil. Wilkinson and Siegel secretly incorporated a nonprofit in 2013 with the same mission statement as Pacifica to acquire the network's broadcasting licenses if it was shut down by the government or became insolvent.
On November 1st, KPFA's satirical Twit Wit Radio once again hauled out the truth serum for Hilary Clinton, Janet Napolitano, and the Pacifica National Board. You can listen here.
Pacifica in Exile readers may write to the board at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For readers who may wish to do more, any donor to a California-based not for profit organization like Pacifica may file a complaint to the open file at the Registry of Charitable Trusts at the Office of the CA Attorney General. Pacifica's case number is CT011303. The form and instructions for filing may be downloaded here.