Monday, March 13, 2017
Exiles' Report: March 2017
THOSE WHO CAN
The national board put on an exhibition of how they got into their mess by running another disruptathon right in the middle of the fundraiser as their members were rising to the occasion and bailing them out of their mismanagement. The remnants of the Siege/Brazon faction held yet another board meeting hostage to points of order, this time obsessing about whether the meeting had been noticed as a "regular" or a "special" meeting, and completely oblivious to the heartening effort going on all around them which was not even mentioned once on the multi-hour streamed audio record. Once again, the undelivered report from interim ED Crosier can be read here.
KPFA director William Campisi, who ran as a Siegel/Brazon-affiliated candidate in 2015 and has since declared himself non-affiliated wrote a lengthy rant after the meeting. Among his other comments (you can read the full statement here) were the following. Not one for subtle diplomacy, Campisi sends his reports to all of his local and national colleagues as well as to several Pacifica-related message boards. (To transfer his language to that generally employed by this publication, what Campisi refers to as "the Roberts faction" is what is referred to here as the Siegel/Brazon faction and what Campisi calls "the Aaron faction" is referred to as the Independents).
"In one of the most colossally stupid moves I have ever seen as a member of parliamentary body, they walked out of special meeting of the PNB on 2/10/17 (that was the third meeting of the PNB) leaving the Aaron faction free to vote and do exactly as they wanted. Now, the Robert’s Faction claims that what the Aaron Faction did at that meeting on 2/10/17 was illegitimate. That’s like pissing into the wind. The only option they have is to bring a lawsuit which they certainly would lose. So after they engaged in their stupid, self-defeating strategy, they are now behaving like children who have decided that the way to “get back” at the Aaron Faction is to obstruct the business of the Board. This is, essentially, a “Pacifica be dammed” strategy. What is so hard for me to comprehend is how the Directors could not try to work together to do what’s best for Pacifica. I recognize that the Roberts Faction is upset and angry about losing control of the organization (their own stupid strategy sealed their fate in that regard.) But nonetheless, it was time for Lydia Brazon to go. Why couldn’t they bend their minds around that fact and then work to get a Director who was acceptable to them, or a chair, or vice chair, etc. Why do they think that if they do not have control, then they might as well bring Pacifica down? Why? Is that what they want. It just makes no sense. It’s so incredibly stupid that it’s frankly incomprehensible to me. I just don’t get it".
The impressive national effort was paired with robust local fundraising in California and in NY, where WBAI's numbers have been picking up. At Berkeley's KPFA, the February drive ended on March 11 at $630,000 or $20K over goal. KPFA's drive went well, but was marked by some frustration by long-time volunteers at the use of a call center instead of a community fund drive room to take pledges at a cost of about 4-5% of all receipts. At LA's KPFK, where the drive was interrupted by both a management change on February 27 and full participation in the March 2 national fundraiser, the drive ended at $590K or $40K over goal. KPFK's drive was marked by a sharp daily 10% increase on each of the last three days of the drive, reflecting member support for the management change. New interim general manager Christine Blosdale is moving to repair unpopular program changes after labor troubles hit the station with a $285K union arbitration judgment and previous management threatened to pull spousal and dependent health care benefits to pay for the SAG-AFTRA penalties. Long-time AM host Sonali Kolhatkar will return to five day a week broadcast in Los Angeles and the station's overnight variety show hosted by Roy of Hollywood resumed its midnight start time, where it has long been the highest rated overnight radio program in the second largest media market in the country. Web visit stats for Something's Happening confirmed the deleterious effects of Radford's 2016 actions on one of Pacifica Radio's most prominent success stories. In New York, daily totals north of $20K were seen occasionally, for the first time since 2011, but were accompanied by complaints about more infomercial-style programming. The NY station, prior to a dramatic 1/3 fall in listener support during 2015, has had challenges raising enough money when it tried to lean more heavily on program-based fundraising in 2012 and 2013 under program directors Bob Hennelly and Andrew Phillips. The increased revenue is welcome, but should be accompanied by a meaningful plan to wean off infomercials and build financial support for a regular program grid. IED Crosier is visiting the two East Cost stations WBAI and WPFW this week.
The follow-up letter from California's Attorney General after the hidden meeting with the outgoing board officers in Mid-January arrived last week, along with a not-unexpected resignation letter from corporate counsel Siegel and Yee. The letter, somewhat at odds with the chipper description of the meeting given to the 2017 board in executive session (as described by Bill Campisi), demands that Pacifica replace all mis-spent restricted funds by the end of the month (which would include DC's moving fund and the KPFK Studio A renovation grant) and provide a plan for re-establishing fiscal stability or dissolving the organization. The deadline for the submission of the 2015 financial audit to the AG has been extended to August of 2017. IED Crosier and former CFO Agarwal, now consulting with Pacifica, are working on the financial stability plan and figuring out how to replenish the DC and LA accounts that were emptied in 2016 and 2015 respectively. The AG's actions follow a series of complaints filed from 2014-2016 by current and former board members, current and former employees and numerous listener-sponsors with the agency.
The resignation of corporate counsel Siegel and Yee accompanied the delivery of the letter from the AG's office which was sent inappropriately to former IED Brazon 18 days after she vacated the position. It is consistent with Siegel and Yee's earlier resignation as Pacifica's corporate counsel in April of 2009 when the board majority also changed hands. At that time, the firm switched rapidly to an adverse position vs a vs their former clients in both 2010 and 2011 after partner Dan Siegel ran for KPFA's local station board two months after resigning as corporate counsel. Siegel remained on the local and then national boards from December of 2009 to January of 2014 and then re-inserted the firm as Pacificia's corporate counsel in April of 2014, 3 months after stepping down as a national board member. Two associate attorneys at Siegel and Yee also served concurrently on local and national Pacifica boards: Tanya Russell on KPFA's local station board and Jose Luis Fuentes on the local and national board from 2012-2016.
Pacifica's board committee structure has fallen prey to the disruptathon tactics with most of the committees still populated by last year's majority, many of whom were kicked out by the voters six months ago. In most cases, this has simply led to rapid adjournments like the finance committee's five minute special last week. The PNB audit committee was an exception though, running for two plus hours last Monday night. The meeting revealed the committee failed to take any minutes for all of its six closed sessions in 2016 and now intends to retroactively create them, as much as a year later. KPFK LSB member Dorothy Reik eventually blew up at the committee asking them if they were crazy and saying the meeting made her feel like she'd died and gone to hell, after the committee proposed taking three months to write a letter asking for price quotes for the FY 2016 audit, which is due to the California AG in June. You can listen to a brief clip here. It pretty much summarizes the Siegel/Brazon delaying tactics that have caused severe audit delinquencies since 2014.
The February 27 management change at LA's KPFK did not occur without a bit of collateral damage. Unpaid volunteer coordinator Adam Rice, whose tenure at the station was marked by threats to station staff and volunteers, emails dictating program changes to GM Radford, extreme on-air and social media profanity and copyright and plugola violations tried to hijack KPFK's Facebook page on hearing he had been banned from the station and extort $100,000 for Radford and himself from Pacifica. Rice, whose KPFK name appears to be a pseudonym, wrote on February 28: (via email and then voluntarily reprinted by Rice on Facebook). The full message can be seen here.
"Dear Leslie. I got your texts. To be honest, yes, I hacked your facebook. Sorry man, but in my defense, you have been using the same password for the last 6 years. You told me to be your jiminy (sic) cricket, to pull you back from slipping into the sick liberalism that permiates (sic) this foundation. Well here is my words of wisdom, STOP BEING SO FUCKING LIBERAL. Fuck these people, all of them. You will notice that the KPFK page is now gone, in a few days it will be gone forever. They have until then to make you whole. To pay you all the money you are owed up to the end of your contract in 2018".
In apparent disappointment that his blackmail attempt was foiled by Facebook, which returned administrative control of the page to station-authorized employees, Rice shut down KPFK's March 12 board meeting where his extortion effort was scheduled for discussion and his possible removal as a local board member.
The trajectory for Pacifica Radio looks to be dramatically improved by the robust national fundraiser, the return of LA's KPFK to productivity and the upgrade in executive leadership, but the hijacking of governance meetings and Rice's absurd "give us money or the Facebook page gets it" are giving credence to sentiments within the network that democratic governance needs to end. Growing proposals to return to self-selecting boards, dramatically cut the size of the national and local boards, eliminate the local boards altogether and/or return to ceremonial-style fundraising-only boards can be heard. It is incumbent on the members of Pacifica's governing boards to get their acts together, or face possible eradication by member vote (as happened to the Bay Area''s KQED) or by a direct appeal to the Attorney General for a new set of bylaws. Those who don't wish to lose their votes have a responsibility to make sure their representatives don't crash and burn Pacifica's hard-won listener democracy.
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