Reese and her supporters lose in court, again

On September 17, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Ioana Petrou made two more rulings in favor of the new leadership at Pacifica, the nonprofit that owns KPFA, following a series that began in May.

Petrou granted a demurrer against the lawsuit brought by Pacifica Directors for Good Governance (PDGG), a group of Pacifica National Board members who supported terminated executive Summer Reese‘s attempt to seize Pacifica’s national office by force. The ruling gave PDGG 10 days to fix the legal deficiencies in their lawsuit, or have it thrown out. The 10 days are now up, so their lawsuit is basically dead.

The board members behind the PDGG’s lawsuit were Janet Coleman (WBAI), Carolyn Birden (WBAI), Manijeh Saba (WBAI), Luzette King (WPFW), Richard Uzzell (KPFT), Kim Kaufman (KPFK), Janet Kobren (KPFA), Heather Gray (affiliate station) and Janis Lane-Ewert (affiliate station).

Along the way, court filings regarding a falling out that the PDGG had with their attorney, Amy Sommer-Anderson, indicated that they ran their lawsuit much the way they had run the Pacifica network when they were in charge of it — by running up large bills they had no plans to pay. Sommer-Anderson filed to have herself removed as counsel because PDGG owed her more than $20,000 in overdue costs and attorneys’ fees.

Judge Petrou also rejected a demurrer from Summer Reese in the action that Pacifica brought to get a court order forcing her to abandon the offices inside which she had barricaded herself.  The court also rejected a motion from Reese, representing herself, to disqualify Judge Petrou from hearing the case — on unspecified charges of prejudice.

LEGAL VICTORY: Superior Court judge issues TRO against fired executive

gavelOn May 12, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Ioana Petrou issued a wide-ranging 17-page decision that demolished each and every legal argument made by the supporters of former Pacifica executive Summer Reese. The judge issued a court order barring Reese from “entering, remaining, blocking ingress into or egress from, or the passage of persons into or out of” Pacifica’s National Office.

“This is a total victory for the new board majority, which has been conscientiously working to save Pacifica,” said Pacifica National Board (PNB) chair and SaveKPFA member Margy Wilkinson. “I hope that Reese and her supporters will leave quickly and peacefully so that Pacifica can put this chapter behind us.” | READ decision, LISTEN to Pacifica Evening News, READ San Jose Mercury article

The backstory: anti-democratic moves to retain control 

On March 17, shortly after Pacifica’s board voted to discharge her, Reese used bolt cutters to break into her former offices and barricaded herself in the building with a handful of supporters, blocking Wilkinson and other board members from even entering the premises.

Reese’s supporters on the national board then filed a lawsuit, asking a court to overturn the board’s actions and even remove those who voted to fire Reese. The board members who sued were Janet Coleman (WBAI), Carolyn Birden (WBAI), Manijeh Saba (WBAI), Luzette King (WPFW), Richard Uzzell (KPFT), Kim Kaufman (KPFK), Janet Kobren (KPFA), Heather Gray (affiliate station) and Janis Lane-Ewert (affiliate station).

Reese using a bolt cutter to break into Pacifica's offices

Reese using a bolt cutter to break into Pacifica’s offices

“Their lawsuit is an anti-democratic power play,” said Brian Edwards-Tiekert, a KPFA staff representative on the Pacifica National Board. “The nine board members who signed on as plaintiffs lost a vote, and wanted the court to overturn it. They lost their majority, and wanted the court to give it back by purging their enemies. And then they filibustered meetings to try to prevent the majority from hiring attorneys to represent Pacifica,” he added.

For nearly two months, Reese’s supporters paralyzed Pacifica. They blocked the board’s officers from access to financial records, and threatened Pacifica employees with legal actions if they worked with the new board majority and officers. They claimed Reese was Pacifica’s “legitimate” executive director, leading some vendors to refuse to work with Pacifica. In a bid to keep paychecks coming to Reese, they nearly sabotaged payroll for all employees of the entire 5-station national network.

In her decision, Judge Petrou found the situation at the Pacifica National Office “completely untenable” and ordered Reese to leave.

“I hope the plaintiffs will now drop their suit,” said Wilkinson. “Pacifica is a fragile institution that can ill afford the time and expense of litigation.” Over 800 listeners and staff have signed a petition demanding Reese go.

Secret contract revealed in court

Reese’s supporters had maintained that the board violated her employment contract by discharging her without cause. During a May 6 court hearing, a very different picture emerged: the Pacifica National Board had agreed on one contract, offered in November 2013, while Reese and three of her supporters on the board crafted an entirely different one in secret.

The agreement approved by Pacifica’s board in November 2013 required Reese to pass a background check and serve in a probationary status for six months.

But on January 30, 2014, it emerged, Reese signed a second contract whose existence the board did not even know about. Former Pacifica treasurer Tracy Rosenberg testified that she helped draft it, along with then-vice chair Heather Gray, a representative of Pacifica’s affiliate stations. It was ultimately signed by then-secretary Richard Uzzell, a representative from KPFT in Houston.

The secret contract eliminated the requirement that Reese pass a background check, functionally eliminated her probationary status, and built in a $105,000 golden parachute that applied even if Reese were fired for cause. In other words: they sought to make Reese unfireable by — and therefore unaccountable to — the elected board that was supposed to supervise her.

exitJudge Petrou ruled that “the board never authorized Gray or Uzell to enter the  January agreement, the board never ratified that agreement, and in fact the majority of the board expressly rejected the January agreement.”

Other issues that came up during the hearing: Edwards-Tiekert testified that Reese had run large deficits at the Pacifica National Office, directed employees working under her to give her large payroll advances in violation of Pacifica policies, and directed employees to reimburse her for expenses without submitting receipts.

During the proceedings, Judge Petrou also threatened to throw former Pacifica treasurer Tracy Rosenberg out of court for mouthing answers to Richard Uzzell while he was testifying. Rosenberg had been a dominant behind-the-scenes player for several years at Pacifica, and is currently serving as Reese’s PR person. Rosenberg was the architect of the decision by then-executive Arlene Engelhardt to cancel KPFA’s Morning Show.

Pacifica Radio was very ably represented in court by Dan Siegel of Siegel & Yee, a SaveKPFA representative on the Pacifica National Board until he stepped down in January to run for Mayor of Oakland. | READ legal filings from both sides here.

RELATED STORIES: Pacifica board votes overwhelmingly to censure two members over their roles in secret contract | Fixing Pacifica (includes financial report) | Lawyer representing board minority jumps ship

What’s next?

duncanThe court decision leaves PNB-appointed interim executive director Bernard Duncan at the helm of the foundation, and facing serious challenges.

PNB chair Wilkinson reports that Pacifica is facing several large outstanding bills accrued during Reese’s tenure that the board was never informed of. Because of Reese’s blockade of the national office’s records, the board still doesn’t have a full accounting of how bad the situation is.

During the crisis, Free Speech Radio News filed a lawsuit against Pacifica for its failure to make payments under contracts Reese signed without board approval last summer. FSRN went off the air as a daily newscast last year.

Who is Summer Reese?

Reese using a bolt cutter to break into Pacifica's offices

Reese using a bolt cutter to break into Pacifica’s offices

Summer Reese came to the Pacifica board via sister station KPFK in Los Angeles. She is a close ally of former Pacifica treasurer Tracy Rosenberg, and was appointed by last year’s board as the network’s interim executive director at a salary of $105,000. (That’s higher that former ED Arlene Engelhardt‘s salary, which was $90,000.)

According to a new article in the LA WeeklyReese’s break-in at the Pacifica office included lawsuit threats. The article charts Reese’s background, which “includes stints working for the lawyer of Sirhan Sirhan, and for a man named Peymon Mottahedeh, a non-lawyer who nevertheless founded the Freedom Law School, which claims to help clients avoid taxes.”

KPFK host Peter Z. Scheer didn’t comment directly on Reese in Truthdig, but notes that “The oldest public radio network in America is in trouble…Get involved, find out what is going on, and make a difference.”

“I’m appalled that a person who has done so much damage to our station and network is now refusing to leave after the board has ended her contract,” wrote KPFA listener Eva Kellen to the board. “Reese and Rosenberg, et al., have practically destroyed the Pacifica network, and the unfounded rumors they are now spreading are outrageous. My deep appreciation to the listeners and staff who are trying to get the network back on course. Pacifica is a treasure that needs to be preserved, now more than ever.”

It’s all there: KPFA’s financial reports

Reese and her supporters — most notably Rosenberg — have responded to Reese’s termination by fabricating stories of corruption at KPFA, including the bizarre charge that KPFA has kept its finances secret.

For the record: KPFA’s most recent FINANCIAL REPORTS are publicly available here, and show the station outperforming its budget for this year. Also, if anything were being concealed, responsibility would lie with the person in charge — which, for the past year and a half, has been Reese.

If  wild accusations are landing in your email box, you may want to remember that Rosenberg was formally censured by KPFA’s Local Station Board for misappropriating subscribers’ email addresses. Even though the board called on her to destroy then, these addresses may still be in Rosenberg’s possession. If you are receiving unwanted emails, you may wish to file a complaint with Rosenberg’s email provider, Salsa Labs, or with the Federal Trade Commission — the directions are in this story about Rosenberg’s deceptive email practices.

SaveKPFA’s Margy Wilkinson elected PNB chair, Tracy Rosenberg finally off the board

margywilkinsonThe Pacifica National Board (PNB) met February 7-10 in Washington, DC. After a close election, Margy Wilkinson, a member of SaveKPFA and former chair of KPFA‘s local board, became Pacifica’s new chair.

Margy is a long-time union activist who is also involved with Grandmothers Against War and is an active volunteer in the Berkeley public schools. Over her two years as chair of KPFA’s local board, she demonstrated a real knack for bringing calm and civility to an often acrimonious setting. Here’s hoping she can keep it up at the PNB!

In related news, this year’s PNB no longer includes Tracy Rosenberg, the board member who engineered the destruction of KPFA’s Morning Show in 2010. She reached the end of her term limit. Filling her seat on Pacifica’s Finance Committee will be worker representative Brian Edwards-Tiekert — one of the Morning Show hosts she encouraged Pacifica to lay off (he was re-instated with full back pay and now hosts UpFront).

The PNB elected Tony Norman as its vice chair. He is an attorney who has previously served as chair of the local board of Pacifica station WPFW in Washington, DC. As secretary, the PNB elected Cerene Roberts, a delegate from New York City’s WBAI, and as assistant secretary, Adriana Casanave from Houston station KPFT. | LISTEN to the PNB meeting: agenda, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

KPFA exceeds funding goals, but isn’t out of the woods yet

bannerKPFA’s staff report the station beat its Summer Fund Drive goal by a tidy $10,000. (If you didn’t get a chance to give, you can still do so online). But with Pacifica’s financial problems intensifying, KPFA’s budget could be threatened.

KPFA’s fundraising success over the past year is partly a result of former manager Andrew Phillips‘ decision to buck Pacifica and put former Morning Show staff Brian Edwards-Tiekert and Laura Prives back to work in the mornings, producing UpFront, along with KPFK’s Sonali Kolhatkar. UpFront has consistently been the station’s biggest fundraiser since the first day of its existence. According to an analysis by KPFA staff, the total pledged during fund drives increased by $220,000 in the 12 months following the introduction of UpFront — all without adding a single day of fundraising.

The better fundraising means KPFA’s Local Station Board (LSB) was able to approve a budget for next year that starts to roll back cuts begun in 2010. The LSB-approved budget restores some funding to KPFA’s Apprenticeship Program, sets aside money for the professional development of KPFA’s unpaid staff, and invests in long-term off-air fundraising strategies, so that the station can shorten its fund drives. The budget passed last Saturday’s LSB with an overwhelming, cross-factional majority — but one KPFA board member voted against it.

Who could that be? The sole vote against approving KPFA’s budget was from Tracy Rosenberg, who also happens to be Pacifica’s treasurer and is at the heart of the network’s mismanagement. KPFA’s budget still needs approval by the Pacifica National Board. Rosenberg and some of her allies participated in a boycott of the LSB’s last budget meeting in an attempt to deny the LSB a quorum.

ACTION ALERT: Sign this petition supporting KPFA’s budget

Last year, under similar circumstances, Rosenberg unilaterally made changes to KPFA’s budget in her role as network treasurer AFTER local board approval. “We can’t let that happen this year,” said Local Station Board member Jack Kurzweil. “KPFA is not the network’s piggy bank. Our listeners give money to keep our local station strong.”

IF YOU AGREE, PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION to the Pacifica National Board demanding that Pacifica respect local control and approve KPFA’s budget in the form adopted by our KPFA Local Station Board — with funding increases for the Apprenticeship Program intact. SHARE the petition with friends, and ask them to circulate it. Together, we can protect KPFA.

If you’d like to listen to the audio of August 10 Local Station Board meeting where the KPFA’s budget was discussed and voted on, you can find it here: part 1 (public comment, manager’s report); part 2 (budget discussion)

Lame-duck Pacifica board rushes to approve anti-dissent “loyalty” rules

Has there ever been a Pacifica board more out of touch with KPFA’s listeners? Three days ago,  the board’s lame-duck majority passed a McCarthy-like resolution to quash dissenters in the network.

Hundreds of listeners and staff wrote to members of the Pacifica National Board (PNB) earlier this month when the anti-dissent “loyalty” measure first came up, calling it a political witch hunt. (A sampling of the letters is here, and you can add your voice here.)

“Putting forward rules about ‘loyalty’ under the guise of financial duty is a trick that Joe McCarthy himself would have been proud of,” wrote listener Elly Larsen. “Stop the witch-hunting, get back to fixing the network, which is badly broken, or you’re going to lose the whole kit-n-caboodle with your juvenile power games.”

Drafted by allies of KPFA board member Tracy Rosenberg, the “loyalty” measure bans those who dissent from serving on local or national boards. Cloaked in references to “harmful or malicious behavior,” including “breaches of loyalty” and “fiduciary care,” its main target is the Morning Show 4 — KPFA board members Margy Wilkinson, Dan Siegel, Mal Burnstein and Conn Hallinan — who led a 2011 SaveKPFA campaign that collected over $60,000 in pledges to restore the KPFA Morning Show, after Pacifica claimed it cancelled the show for financial reasons.

Listeners pledging for KPFA Morning Show

A few of the hundreds of KPFA listeners who pledged to help bring back the Morning Show.

Hundreds of listeners gave pledges of support (not actual money) in that campaign,  but Pacifica refused to accept them. Rosenberg’s allies then slapped the four SaveKPFA activists with a lawsuit demanding $800,000 in “damages” for the fundraising activity, which they claim is “disloyal” to Pacifica. The lawsuit is pending, but Rosenberg has been publicly proclaiming it as a win for her side.

“I am appalled and shocked to hear that 4 KPFA listeners, all of whom are much respected in the community, are being sued for $800,000 for their KPFA fundraising activities,” wrote KPFA listener Alan Smith to the Pacifica board, echoing many others. “It is clear whomever drafted [the measure] has no sense of history or progressive values and does not belong on the Pacifica board.”

“The idea that someone breached their fiduciary duties by raising money for the station – NOT self-dealing – is itself ridiculous,” KPFA listener Clyde Leland wrote to the Pacifica board. “The further step of making loyalty a qualification for service on the Local Station Board is worse. It is sickening anti-democratic moves like this that are tearing this station apart.”

The “loyalty” measure was tabled on a vote of 11-9 two weeks ago, but mysteriously appeared on Pacifica’s phone meeting agenda last Thursday, during which it was “taken off the table” and immediately voted on it (a violation of procedure). Nia Bediako, a delegate from New York’s WBAI, has asked that the record show that the resolution was not properly before the body.

Contempt for listeners, democratic process

“The measure displays a stunning contempt for the process and the KPFA listenership,” said Margy Wilkinson, former KPFA board chair and one of the station’s delegates-elect to the Pacifica board, who listened to the meeting online. “It was clear from the discussion that Pacifica’s own attorney had counseled against adopting the measure, and we know that board members had received many messages from listeners urging them to reject it.”

Supporters of the “loyalty” measure included Pacifica board chair Summer Reese, a KPFK delegate, who despite having not been part of the meeting, phoned in just before the vote to support it, making the count 10-10. Then, KPFT delegate Bill Crosier, serving as chair, broke the tie, making the final recorded vote 11-10.

Several board members who supported the measure are lame ducks whose terms have technically expired. In violation of Pacifica’s bylaws, incumbent board members had unilaterally extended their own terms by delaying seating of incoming PNB delegates until late February.

How much damage can they do in the next month? The anti-dissent measure was only one of several measures passed which will further undermine local control at KPFA and other Pacifica stations. Newly-elected Pacifica delegates may move to reconsider the “loyalty” measure and others when they are finally seated next month. We’ll keep you informed.

Local board elects SaveKPFA reps to nearly all leadership positions

Return KPFA to us nowWhile Pacifica’s old guard is desperately clinging to its power at the national level, KPFA’s local board is moving forward.

The first new Local Station Board (LSB) in more than two years took office at its January 12 meeting. In December, SaveKPFA‘s candidates won a landslide in elections – a majority that was reflected in the local election of board officers and delegates to the Pacifica National Board (PNB).

Burton White was elected chair of the local board, and Carole Travis, vice-chair. Craig Alderson was elected secretary. Barbara Whipperman continued as the appointed treasurer. Margy Wilkinson, Dan Siegel, and Brian Edwards-Tiekert were elected as delegates to the Pacifica National Board. All 7 are SaveKPFA activists.

The proportional voting system gave local board members aligned with United for Community Radio the ability to elect a single delegate, and they did so by voting  Tracy Rosenberg into the fourth KPFA delegate position to the Pacifica board. Last fall, Rosenberg sued over a technicality to prevent votes in the recall against her from being counted. Her allies on the Pacifica board majority failed to remedy Pacifica’s error, so the ballots remain uncounted.

Last month’s election was the first held since Pacifica’s former executive director Arlene Engelhardt overrode KPFA’s local management, purged the station’s popular Morning Show, replaced it with an all-volunteer lineup, and then put notorious union-busting law firm Jackson Lewis on retainer to deal with the backlash. In 2012, the PNB decided to let Engelhardt’s employment contract expire. The board is currently considering how to move forward to find a new executive director.

Audio of the LSB meeting is available here: part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5 | part 6

Anti-dissent measure on Pacifica’s Jan 10 agenda

Tell Pacifica: Don't Ban Dissent!On less than four days’ notice, the lame-duck Pacifica National Board has scheduled a vote on a resolution designed to prevent people who dissent from the current majority from serving on local or national boards.

After we alerted SaveKPFA supporters to this, hundreds wrote, calling the measure what it is: a political witchhunt.

“I’m stunned that a measure about ‘loyalty’ should even be considered by a Pacifica board,” wrote listener Alan Snitow. “Please stop this measure and repudiate its intent. The loyalty measure is the kind of pseudo-leftwing idea that merges Stalinism and McCarthyism.”

“How can you dare to try to turn Pacifica into a grotesque caricature of the reactionary tendencies KPFA was founded to oppose?” wrote listener Stephanie Reader. “This Orwellian ‘loyalty measure’ is yet more appalling evidence of how far over to the dark side some on the Pacifica board have drifted in their determination to run it without input from those who do the work, and those who pay the bills.”

The Pacifica’s board referred the matter to legal counsel for an opinion. That opinion has not been made public, but the “loyalty” proposal has reappeared on the agenda on the next Pacifica National Board phone meeting this Thursday, January 10, starting at 5:30 PM Pacific time. Anyone may listen to the live web-broadcast of the meeting at this link or this link.

ACTION ALERT: Please take a moment to send an email to Pacifica’s board demanding they reject this “loyalty” measure. Use our sample message, or write your own. | CLICK HERE TO SEND AN EMAIL

“This is about KPFA’s foundational principles of free speech and political dissent,” noted Local Station Board vice chair Sasha Futran. “If a measure like this actually ends up being adopted, Pacifica’s founder Lew Hill would not even recognize the radio network he created,” she said.

Although Pacifica’s Bylaws require the incumbent national board be replaced by newly-elected members this month, the incumbent boardmembers have unilaterally extended their own terms by delaying the first meeting of the incoming PNB until February. They may be hoping that buys them time to do more damage: the anti-dissent resolution appears at the top of a 10-page agenda stacked with items that promise to eviscerate local control at Pacifica’s stations and place massive bureaucratic constraints on the work of the network’s rank-and-file staff.

Why this vote matters

Dan Siegel“The result of these elections could determine whether Pacifica survives or continues its slide into bankruptcy,” writes Pacifica National Board member and SaveKPFA activist Dan Siegel in Counterpunch.

“Pacifica has always been fractious, back to when KPFA was founded as its first station in 1949,” he continues, going on to describe the network’s current leadership as “inept and politically sectarian.” That leadership, he writes, “has brought the Foundation to its knees. It has spent down all its reserves, incurring cumulative deficits of $5.7 million in the last four fiscal years, according to its 2012 audit report.” | READ Siegel’s article and this overview of Pacifica’s audit