Monday, January 23, 2017

Exile Newsletter: Diaphanous delusion?

Berkeley - A new Pacifica National Board will be seated (or at least attempt to be seated) on January 26. After directors elections were completed at all five Pacifica stations, the 2017 station reps are Alex Steinberg, Ken Laufer, Kathryn Davis and Cerene Roberts from NY, Nancy Sorden, Benito Diaz, Maskeelah Washington and Jim Brown from DC, Bill Crosier, Bob Mark, Rhonda Garner and Adriana Casenave from Houston, Grace Aaron, Jan Goodman, Jonathan Alexander and Sharon Brown from Los Angeles and Akio Tanaka, Andrea Turner, Bill Campisi and Sabrina Jacobs from Berkeley.

Two affiliate directors were elected last December in a process marred by the board majority's refusal to seat three directors chosen by New York's newly elected delegates on December 14. At the urging of the sole seated WBAI director Cerene Roberts, the PNB threw out the NY election for PNB representatives in December using the excuse that the directors election was not specifically noticed on the meeting page. 

The board faces a dilemma, because the KPFA local station board similarly failed to notice their directors election held on January 14, failing  to announce either a delegate assembly or an election of directors.  To be consistent with their previous actions and endorsement of Robert's disenfranchisement of her colleagues, the PNB would have to invalidate KPFA's director election and not seat new directors Campisi, Turner, Tanaka and Jacobs until the KPFA election is redone with an advanced posted notice.
The factional seating battle engaged in by Roberts prevented a full slate of directors from selecting two affiliate reps for the 2017 board, as the bylaws process demands. Pacifica's bylaws require a minimum of 22 national board members and equal representation from all five stations.  The appointed election teller, Terry Goodman, a former PNB member, objected to the WBAI disenfranchisement and publicly issued a report counting all  the votes, without discarding those of the three excluded  from NY, and issued those results, which he stated were a "more legitimate record".  In the tally that included all the votes, David Beaton of WSLR-FM in Sarasota, FL finished first with 7 of 16 votes, followed by Uhuru Radio's Temba Tshibanda with 5 votes. 

The outgoing Pacifica National Board met on January 5th and then continued on January 12th. The main order of business was the board majority trying to overturn the certified election results, while claiming they were doing nothing of the kind. IED Brazon issued a statement and posted it on the website stating 2016 election results were certified and final. Then the outgoing board of directors passed a motion (by WBAI rep Cerene Roberts) calling for a recount and stating director and officer elections would be "redone" if the recount (by an unidentified party who would be paid $1,500), came up with different results. So the board majority stated the 2016 elections results were not certified and final.  The dissension focused on write-in candidates who received only a handful of votes, most only 1 or 2 votes.  This spreadsheet shows the rankings and vote totals of all candidates including the write-ins. The full certified election results can be seen here. Even IED Brazon commented she thought the board's motion was ill-advised. Zip files containing all the anonymous ballot images have now been posted on Pacifica's elections website by PNB member Jonathan Alexander, allowing for independent confirmation of any "recount". You can listen to a brief highlight reel from the January 12 meeting here. It is not known if the 2017 board, which takes over later this week, will continue with the "recount" or simply end the prolonged attempt to throw the results in the garbage can.

The rest of the 6 hours of meeting time was devoted to a series of motions reprimanding the KPFA local station board by the outgoing Siegel/Brazon majority. The first, from Janet Kobren, tried to get the PNB to cancel a planned retreat by the KPFA LSB on the basis that it violates open meeting requirements from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It was defeated, probably because KPFA and the rest of the Pacifica stations have been CPB-ineligible for 3 years. The second, from WPFW rep Nancy Sorden was another bullet in the shooting match between the PNB and KPFA local station board about allowing or prohibiting remote telephone participation at local board meetings.  The motion passed, the fourth round of back and forth retorts between the Siegel/Brazon faction and its west coast wing, Save KPFA, which dominates the KPFA local board. The final motion from KPFT rep Adriana Casenave chastised the KPFA LSB for allowing termed-out director Margy Wilkinson to vote and propose motions after her six-year term limit expired and it passed as well. Wilkinson was one of the directors who argued  WBAI rep Janet Coleman had to be instantly replaced on the WBAI local station board in 2015 on the exact day Coleman's six year term lapsed from an old runners-up list, regardless of the election then in progress, setting off a year-long dispute that robbed WBAI of board representation for an entire year. But Wilkinson reserved delegate status and voting rights for herself on the KPFA local station board 13 days after her own six-year term limit expired.

Not to be outdone, the KPFA local station rebutted by issuing their own "evaluation" of the outgoing national board, giving them a grade F with language that could have been drawn straight from this publication's ongoing reporting on Pacifica governance. The lambasting handed down, complete with a repeat of threats to sue to dissolve the Pacifica Foundation, ignored that 7 of the 12 officer positions on the national board have been filled by members of the KPFA local station board for the past three years. 

The national board canceled a planned special meeting to approve an organizational budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year because a consolidated draft is still not finalized, at almost 4 months into the fiscal year. An organizational budget was never completed for the previous 2015-2016 fiscal year either, marking a multi-year  breakdown in the annual budget process overseen by the national finance committee. A big part of the reason for the breakdown is the outgoing PNB's approval of the "SCA motion" initiated by WBAI rep Cerene Roberts. Her proposal is for sideband rental fees collected by the national office to be "credited" against central service fees paid for shared costs by all five stations. In order to pay for the credits, higher fees would need to be paid by stations with little sideband rental income and lower fees would be paid by stations with more sideband income. The national board passed the measure in November, but has been foiled by the inability to implement it since the stations asked to pay for the credits don't have the extra income to do so. The biggest victims are KPFA and WPFW, and the biggest beneficiaries are KPFK and WBAI. Roberts got her proposal passed by obscuring the actual costs attached to it. When the news broke, both KPFA and WPFW were livid, with WPFW's GM demanding to know why three of WPFW's PNB reps voted for it, and KPFA's local station board chair yelling at outgoing PNB rep Janet Kobren for her absence on the vote, calling her "unconscious". (KPFA LSB chair Travis declined to insult the outgoing PNB reps from her own faction, Margy Wilkinson and Jose-Luis Fuentes, who were equally unconscious, also skipped the vote and also failed to inform the local board of the steep hike in central services). The impracticality of Robert's scheme has not prevented her from continuing to block efforts to rescind it, but the net effect has been to prevent any organizational budget from being able to move ahead since no one can make the numbers add up under Robert's model. This brief clip features Robert's bizarre AirNBN analogy used to justify her proposal, the PNB vote and the anger on the KPFA LSB when they found out how much it would cost the Berkeley station. 

On the financial transparency side, what we can produce is the long-delayed 2014 financial audit, only 19 months overdue, which can be downloaded here and the income statement for November 30, 2016, which can be downloaded here. 

At Houston's KPFT, the departure of long-time general manager Duane Bradley, who at a decade and a half was the longest surviving Pacifica senior executive by a considerable margin, is causing concern among the station's community. Bradley's resignation follows in short order the departure of long-time program director Ernesto Aguilar and development director Robin Lewis, leaving a vacuum in the station's senior management. Bradley was subjected to a multi-year harassment campaign by the former Siegel/Brazon majority on KPFT's local station board, and finally threw in the towel shortly before the overwhelming victory in the last election by Houston's independents. Until the new board finds a permanent replacement for Bradley, IED Brazon appointed programmer Obidike Kamau as a part-time interim general manager. Kamau will continue to hold down a full-time position as associate director at a university library and try to manage KPFT in a spare 20 hours a week, which will be difficult given the lack of the rest of the management team. KPFT's last local station board eliminated the program director position entirely in their 2017 draft budget, which has yet to be approved by the PNB. KPFT, which had long been one of the more stable Pacifica stations, with paid-up central services and clean accounting records, has recently been struggling with missed fund drive goals and the loss of some long-time popular hosts.

The new local station board in Houston, which Houston voters hoped would help revitalize the station, has been bogged down in attendance disputes and convened a special meeting on January 18, just to debate which members to kick off.  After convening a dizzying 9 meetings in 12  weeks, the local board retained one member with too many absences and kicked another off. The kickee was long-time member Kevin White, who earlier this year engaged in a multi-month saga to get seated in the first place after Siegel/Brazonite Maria Elena Castellanos unresigned to prevent his seating. White has been an outspoken critic of the Siegel/Brazon faction in Houston. 

The legal bill from Silverman and Silverman, the NY law firm retained by Dan Siegel to defend him from the Cohen vs. Pacifica lawsuit filed in 200, was collected via bank seizure warrant from the operating account of LA station KPFK last month. The lawsuit was prompted by Siegel, then the interim executive director, firing the national election supervisor Casey Peters and replacing him with himself. Siegel's actions, which were illegal, as Pacifica's bylaws state the national elections supervisor may not be a Pacifica officer, employee, or delegate (much less the ED himself), were taken because Peters refused to certify WBAI's election due to what he called undue interference by Siegel. The cost to Pacifica was Siegel's $95K bill for his failed defense. Several succeeding Pacifica executive directors did not believe the bill was Pacifica's responsibility, due to Siegel's actions being prohibited. Silverman and Silverman did not go to court to collect until 2015, 4 years after the case ended. A judgment was entered against Pacifica in November of 2015. Current IED Brazon did not make any payments after the court judgment, and a year later, the funds were seized from KPFK's bank account.

The seizure warrant damaged the already fragile finances of LA station KPFK, which is already struggling to pay a $285K  judgement for union contract violations handed down in an arbitration in August of 2016.  Dan Siegel was Pacifica's representative in the arbitration, but did not offer much of a defense for the involuntary pay cuts and refusal to provide severance packages, stating that Pacifica would not submit its general ledger for inspection because its financial records were in disarray. Departing producer Christine Blosdale reported in a public comment at KPFK's last local station board meeting that she had been unable to cash her arbitration-ordered severance check for more than a week and was borrowing money from friends in order to survive.  Blosdale, who creates fund drive special programs for KPFK, has raised 1/3 or more of the station's listener support ($1 million dollars a year) for at least the past 6 years. Her programs had been aired 2-6x a day on every one of KPFK's 140+ fund drive days per year (and from time to time on other Pacifica stations as well). 

KPFK's budget draft as submitted by GM Radford and not yet approved by the PNB, suggests paying for the SAG-AFTRA judgment against Radford by stripping KPFK's employees of health care coverage for spouses and dependent children, basically making employees whose grievances were upheld in arbitration personally pay for the costs of the judgment against their management for violating their union contract. At least 9 employees stand to lose family and/or spousal coverage, as the nation looks to the intended removal of the Affordable Care Act, including some of the station's most popular program hosts. The budget as proposed would have violated the employer mandate of the ACA, if the law continued.

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  1. Amazing. I read Casey Peters report on the 2007 election a while back. I thought it was ancient history and it turns out it was not because the national office just refused to deal with it. Now, about ten years later, the bill finally came due. Sad.

  2. Pacifica antics are getting boring.


  3. This is really terrible writing. Who has time for this?