Recall moves ahead, listeners petition for impartial oversight

The campaign by KPFA listeners to recall Pacifica National Board treasurer Tracy Rosenberg has passed an important hurdle. KPFA management certified this week that recall petitions submitted by SaveKPFA activists contained more than enough signatures of KPFA subscribers.

The petitions included more than 800 signatures, and 462 were verified on the first pass as precise matches to KPFA’s subscriber database — more than the number needed for the recall to go forward. Subsequent matching accounting for name variations, address changes, and so forth brought the number of valid signatures up to 583, or 70% of the total submitted.

“We can’t wait any longer to recall Tracy,” said Pamela Drake, a member of KPFA’s Local Station Board.  She added that next week marks the one year anniversary of Pacifica’s purge of KPFA’s popular Morning Show, which Rosenberg was instrumental in engineering.

Running the recall election is expected to cost about $10,000 for printing and postage — or about 50 cents per KPFA subscriber. In the year since Pacifica’s elimination of the Morning Show, the loss in pledges during morning drive time has averaged over $8,000 per weekday.  “That means Rosenberg’s purges have cost KPFA hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Drake, “and more importantly, have deprived Bay Area listeners of consistent, hard-hitting morning programming.”

Recall ballots should arrive in listeners’ mailboxes next month. IMPORTANT: If you haven’t yet signed the listener petition demanding that Pacifica make sure the recall vote has impartial, third-party oversight, please do so now. | SIGN PETITION HERE

KPFA workers uncover retirement shortfalls, endorse Occupy Oakland strike

KPFA's Sasha Lilley (left) & Mitch Jeserich (right) broadcasting from Occupy Oakland

Union workers at KPFA say that Pacifica has been shorting their retirement accounts, in violation of federal law. reports that when employees got their quarterly statements from account provider ING, “they noticed that Pacifica had taken money out of their paychecks but had not put the money into their pensions during half of the weeks recorded.”

After two KPFA union members investigated and obtained documents about Pacifica’s payments (as is their right under the federal law), they received “terse” emails from both interim KPFA general manager Andrew Phillips and Pacifica’s executive director Arlene Engelhardt threatening legal action if they shared the information.

Union rep Christina Huggins of CWA Local 9415 stepped in. After receiving no response to her queries from either Engelhardt or Pacifica’s CFO Lavarn Williams, Huggins wrote this letter to the Pacifica National Board, to whom both Engelhardt and Williams report. “This is a form of wage theft, and it is a very serious matter,” Huggins wrote.  “The scope of this problem is large: We have seen this pattern for every employee whose records we have been able to check,” she wrote, adding that similar problems were identified as far back as a year and a half. “I’m writing to you as fiduciaries of the Pacifica Foundation,” Huggins continued, “because what we are dealing with is looking less like an error and more like a pattern: Missing payments, lack of transparency, hostility to employees who ask financial questions, unwillingness to release basic financial documents. These are classic warning signs of financial mismanagement and/or internal fraud.”

Engelhardt eventually responded, admitting the payments were overdue but saying they had finally been made. “They’ve not paid for lost interest, nor have they notified all the affected workers,” one KPFA worker told us.

Financial transparency lacking at Pacifica
In the wake of the retirement fund blowup, SaveKPFA reps have been pressing Pacifica management for financial transparency. Pacifica National Board members Dan Siegel, Andrea Turner and Laura Prives (who serve on the KPFA local board as well), have exercised their right to have their agents (KPFA treasurer Barbara Whipperman, and Brian Edwards-Tiekert, a former KPFA treasurer) inspect Pacifica’s books.

So far, they report that Pacifica management has been less than forthcoming — insisting all document requests be submitted in writing, unilaterally canceling scheduled inspections, and paying an attorney to write them a threatening letter.

Pacifica to put KPFA’s money in B of A?
While the Occupy Wall Street protests have inspired record numbers of people to move their money out of corporate mega-banks, Pacifica management is trying to move its stations’ money in.

Pacifica’s chief financial officer LaVarn Williams is pressuring KPFA and the other stations Pacifica owns, to move their business to Bank of America. (KPFA’s business manager has solicited a proposal from a local bank that would cost $20,000 per year less in fees).

Meanwhile, KPFA’s union staff passed a resolution in support of Occupy Oakland‘s Nov. 2 general strike, and the station’s journalists joined the movement on the streets to do extensive live coverage of the actions.

Fund drive comes up short; KFCF nixes KPFA’s new programming

KPFA’s Fall Fund Drive has come up over $100,000 short, mostly due to a stunning $8500 per day shortfall during the morning hours (see chart at right comparing this fall with last fall, when the Morning Show was still on the air).

KPFA fall fund drive chart

Among the questionable programs broadcast during the drive was one presented by interim general manager Andrew Phillips which promoted far right-wing ideas along with bizarre theories about brain control.

Fresno station KFCF has pulled two programs installed recently by KPFA’s interim management, TwitWit and The Week Starts Here. The programs, hosted by allies of Pacifica management, were put on the air despite an outcry from KPFA listeners who supported existing Sunday night arts programming. While KFCF rebroadcasts much of KPFA’s air, it is independently run by the Fresno Free College Foundation. KFCF’s Program Needs Assessment Committee recommended that the new shows be nixed, and the award-winning LA Theatre Works be returned to its regular slot.

Edwards-Tiekert (center with mike) interviewing filmmaker Michael Moore at Occupy Oakland

Award for KPFA journalist
KPFA staffer Brian Edwards-Tiekert has won an award from the Society of Professional Journalists – Northern California.

SPJ must have seen something Pacifica didn’t — the award is for climate change reporting Edwards-Tiekert did after Pacifica laid him off, and before it was forced to reinstate him with back pay. (The Pacifica-installed management at KPFA is still refusing to return the Morning Show to air, so Brian is now reporting for the News Department).