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 Pacificacan 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.

graphic-reese-for-webIn 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.

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.

Posted in Carolyn Birden, Heather Grey, Janet Coleman, Janet Kobren, Janis Lane-Ewert, Kim Kaufman, KPFA, Luzette King, Manijeh Saba, Pacifica, Pacifica National Board, Summer Reese, Summer Reese petition, Tracy Rosenberg | 1 Comment

Pacifica asks judge for TRO to remove Reese from its office

kpfamikeguitarThe Pacifica Foundation has asked the Alameda County Superior Court for a Temporary Restraining Order to remove former executive Summer Reese and her supporters from the Pacifica National Office in Berkeley, next door to KPFA. [Update: the court has continued this case to May 6 at 10am]

After a new majority took control at the Pacifica National Board this spring and terminated her employment, a disgruntled Reese broke into the office with bolt cutters and began sleeping there with her mother and a handful of supporters, illegally blocking the network’s elected directors from access, making wild accusations, and preventing the network from conducting business.

The case will be heard by Judge Ioana Petrou on Monday, April 28 at 9:00 AM in Dept 15 of the County Administration Bldg, 1221 Oak Street (3rd floor), downtown Oakland. SaveKPFA supporters are encouraged to attend.

“The Board and the public are suffering irreparable damage,” notes the legal case filed by the Pacifica Foundation on Friday, causing a “loss of good will, donations, and work hours.” It states that Reese’s actions “unquestionably violate state law and local ordinances,” and that Pacifica’s board sought the assistance of the Berkeley Police Department, which “after weeks of considering the matter, requested that [Pacifica] obtain a Court order to abate the nuisance.” |LEGAL DOCUMENTSMemorandum for TRO, Yee declaration, Wilkinson declaration, Verified cross-complaint, Application for TRO, Order to show cause

The complaint also notes that Reese and her supporters have prevented Pacifica’s elected chair, Margy Wilkinson, and its CFO, Raul Salvador, “from having access to the accounts payable and financial data to begin the Foundation’s audit….”

“The havoc caused by Reese and her supporters could very well bring this financially-fragile network down,” said Donald Goldmacher, a member of KPFA’s Local Station Board, and producer of the film Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?

Pacifica responds to lawsuit from 9 Reese supporters, says case has no merit

Pacifica’s board has also filed a response to a rambling lawsuit from 9 Reese supporters, who last month slapped the network with the suit in an attempt to force it to rehire Reese. Those 9 Reese supporters lost the first round, when Superior Court Judge Ioana Petrou denied them a TRO on April 9.

The Pacifica board’s response starts with a clear statement of facts about Reese’s employment and why she was terminated. It states Reese was not in possession of a valid contract because several preconditions were not met. The contract she has publicly released, Pacifica’s response states, signed by two of her supporters, was not authorized by the national board, and when presented to the full board for a vote, was rejected.

Pacifica’s response also points out many logical inconsistencies in the Reese supporters’ case. For instance, that they failed to follow basic procedures set out in the organization’s bylaws for remedying disagreements, which are supposed to be taken up by the board itself before landing in a court of law. And that in suing Pacifica, the 9 Reese supporters are effectively suing themselves since they sit on the Pacifica board. | LEGAL DOCUMENT:  Response to pro-Reese lawsuit

As Pacifica National Board chair Margy Wilkinson has said, she hopes the judge’s initial ruling against the 9 pro-Reese directors would encourage them “to express dissent with their voices and their votes, not litigation. Pacifica is in a fragile state, and can’t afford the time or expense of this lawsuit.”

So far, over 800 of Pacifica’s listeners and staff have signed an open letter essentially saying the same thing. Signers include Sasha Lilly, co-host, Against the Grain, former Pacifica National Affairs correspondent Larry Bensky, UC faculty Candace Falk and John Hurst, free speech activist Lynne Hollander Savio, community activist Ying LeeUpFront’s Brian Edwards-Tiekert, former Pacifica board chair Sherry Gendelman, KPFA’s Aileen Alfandary, labor journalist David Bacon, PM Press founder Ramsey Kanaan, Alameda County School superintendent Sheila Jordan, KPFA’s Philip Maldari, former KPFA GM Jim Bennett and former KPFA iGM Andrew Phillips, KPFK’s Jim Lafferty of the Lawyer’s Guild Show and Ian Masters of Background Briefing, KPFA programmers Sandy Miranda, Derk Richardson, Saadia Malik, David Gans, Tim Lynch, Vanessa Tait, Judith Scherr, Richard Wolinsky and many, many others.

Many have added comments, like KFCF listener Richard Stone“KPFA has been a broadcasting treasure, Pacifica its caretaker,” Stone writes to the pro-Reese group. “Do not destroy this bastion of radio sanity by selfish action.”

Posted in elections and governance, KPFA, Pacifica National Board, Summer Reese | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Happy 65th birthday KPFA!

Cake for KPFA's 65th from Berkeley's Sweet Adeline Bakeshop

Cake for KPFA’s 65th from Berkeley’s Sweet Adeline Bakeshop

KPFA celebrated 65 years of amazing radio on April 15 and we all said HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the station we love.

There were special guests all day, and listeners make contributions in honor of KPFA’s past as well as its future health and longevity. You can still do so online at kpfa.org.

In case you missed the special programming here’s a taste: Brian Edwards-Tiekert interviewed Matthew Lasar and Adam David Miller on UpFront about the founding on KPFA.

KPFAbirthday2Mitch Jeserich interviewed KPFA founder Richard Moore and new Pacifica interim executive director Bernard Duncan on Letters & Politics. He was later joined by long-time KPFA programmers Kris Welch and Lewis Sawyer.

On Against the Grain, Sasha Lilly delved into the station’s anarcho-syndicalist origins. | MORE PHOTOS: the studio is dressed up, another cake is delivered, a sign marking the day, balloons outside on the street

Posted in Bernard Duncan, KPFA, Pacifica | Tagged , | Comments Off

KPFA’s LSB demands fired exec leave office

KPFA-radio-dialA motion demanding that the former interim executive Summer Reese, who is sleeping at Pacifica’s National Office, “leave peacefully,” passed the KPFA Local Station Board overwhelmingly by a vote of 10-5 on April 12. Those voting against the motion were Cynthia Johnson, Andrea Pritchett, Frank Sterling, Ramses Teon-Nichols and David Welsh.

Board members were responding to the flood of  emails and comments about the situation, including a petition signed by over 700 listeners and staff. | LISTEN to the LSB meeting: part a, part b, part c

Meanwhile, the Pacifica National Board met on Monday, April 14 in executive session and issued this report out, which says that due to “pending litigation” the board adjourned to a separate phone number to discuss the lawsuit against Pacifica “without any of the 9 named plaintiffs in the lawsuit monitoring the call.”

That’s the lawsuit we reported on last week, which board members supporting Summer Reese filed with an Alameda County judge. The judge denied their request for a Temporary Restraining Order, and set a hearing for May 6. On Monday’s call, the board authorized Pacifica’s interim executive director Bernard Duncan and/or PNB chair Margy Wilkinson to decide who to retain to defend Pacifica against the suit.

Wilkinson has said that she hoped the plaintiffs would “express dissent with their voices and their votes, not litigation. Pacifica is in a fragile state, and can’t afford the time or expense of this lawsuit.”

Posted in KPFA Local Station Board, Margy Wilkinson, Pacifica | Comments Off

Judge denies TRO to Pacifica board members backing terminated executive

gavelToday, 9 members of the Pacifica National Board tried to convince an Alameda County Judge to overturn the actions of the democratically-elected majority sitting on that board. They lost.

The plaintiffs are Janet Coleman (WBAI), Carolyn Birden (WBAI), Manijeh Saba (WBAI), Luzette King (WPFW), Richard Uzzell (KPFT), Kim Kaufman (KPFK), Janet Kobren (KPFA), Heather Grey (Affiliates) and Janis Lane-Ewert (Affiliates). They were out-voted when the new Pacifica majority began making changes last month, such as renewing its programming and listener base, and terminating interim executive director Summer Reese, who reacted by breaking into Pacifica’s offices with bolt cutters and refusing to leave. Coverage appeared in the San Jose Mercury News and Reuters, among other places.

Those suing had gone to court without following basic due process requirements: they didn’t communicate their intent to file a lawsuit beforehand; they didn’t even serve notice on the board members they are suing.

They had so badly mangled the procedural part of filing the lawsuit, that Judge Ioana Petrou didn’t even get into the merits of their argument. She denied their motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, and scheduled the next phase of the lawsuit — a preliminary injunction hearing — for May 6.

At one point, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Amy Sommer Anderson, asked for more time. “On very short notice, you put this on my calendar” the judge chastised her.

Pacifica National Board chair Margy Wilkinson said, “I hope today’s decision will encourage the plaintiffs to express dissent with their voices and their votes, not litigation. Pacifica is in a fragile state, and can’t afford the time or expense of this lawsuit.”

Hundreds of Pacifica’s listeners apparently agree, as they are signing and commenting on a petition demanding Reese and her supporters respect the majority’s decision.

Posted in Carolyn Birden, elections and governance, Heather Grey, Janet Coleman, Janet Kobren, Janis Lane-Ewert, Kim Kaufman, Luzette King, Manijeh Saba, Margy Wilkinson, Pacifica National Board, Richard Uzzell, Summer Reese | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

PNB chair Margy Wilkinson on KPFK’s Truthdig Radio

New Pacifica National Board chair Margy Wilkinson appeared on KPFK’s Truthdig Radio today with Peter Z. Scheer. “There are real governance issues,” she of the network. “Pacifica is not highly functioning…. change is needed,” she said, adding that “most agree with that.”

“Right now way the national is functioning is not that helpful to the local stations,” said Wilkinson. She advocated for decentralization and greater autonomy at local stations, and encouraged listeners to find out more at their local Pacifica radio staton by volunteering.

Posted in Margy Wilkinson, Pacifica National Board, Summer Reese | 1 Comment

Moving forward: new executive director for Pacifica

duncanWhen Pacifica National Board chair (and SaveKPFA activist) Margy Wilkinson assumed executive powers after the termination of Summer Reese, she promised listeners and staff that she didn’t want the job, wouldn’t accept pay, and would work to get a qualified professional in as soon as possible. This week, she delivered. Pacifica has announced that KPFK former station manager Bernard Duncan has been hired as interim executive director while a search in under way for a permanent replacement.

Duncan has extensive experience in radio and television broadcasting, including years in management positions, according to Pacifica’s website. “Bernard Duncan knows his way around this organization, cares about Pacifica’s Mission, and he’s worked everywhere from behind a microphone to inside the executive offices,” said Wilkinson. “What Pacifica needs right now is a skilled manager who can hit the ground running, and I’m very pleased Bernard’s taken us on.”

Progress: Pacifica going multimedia

Sonali Kolhatkar, a contributor to KPFA’s UpFront and host of Uprising at KPFK in Los Angeles, is fundraising for an ambitious new multimedia project that could have her following in the footsteps of Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman. She has secured a deal to distribute her program nationally via the satellite channel Free Speech TV. This will raise Pacifica’s profile in areas where its combined signals currently do not reach, and could create a multimedia production model for other stations in the network to follow.

uprisingCurrently, KPFK is running an online fundraising campaign for the money needed to install professional-quality video equipment, which will then be available to any KPFK programmers who want to make use of it. If successful, the campaign will turn KPFK’s studios into a multimedia production facility right in the middle of Los Angeles — a place with access to filmmakers, celebrities, and grassroots organizers on the cutting edge of struggles for immigrants’ rights and environmental justice. The best part of this online fundraising campaign is that it will not intrude on KPFK’s normal programming, like a pledge drive. The donation page is here. The campaign has already raised $5,000 online in its first few days — if you can, help out!

Meanwhile, KPFK’s Alan Minsky published this thought-provoking piece about how Pacifica can become the “media we need.”

Posted in Alan Minsky, Bernard Duncan, Pacifica, Pacifica National Board, Sonali Kolkathar | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Some still clinging to the past

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

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

[UPDATE 4/9/14 @10:05 am: The national board minority's attempt to get a Temporary Restraining Order to allow Reese to keep her job has been DENIED by the Alameda County Superior Court. More news as we have it.]

Pacifica’s former interim executive director, Summer Reese, remains barricaded in her former office, which she broke into with bolt cutters four days after the elected Pacifica National Board voted 11-7 to end her employment. In violation of California law, she’s still illegally blocking elected members of Pacifica’s Board of Directors from entering the premises to look at financial records.

Over the past week, Reese made moves to sabotage Pacifica’s funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by complaining to the organization’s Inspector General about financial problems that either took place while she was running the organization, or that she failed to fix during her tenure. Reese has also signed a lengthy declaration as part of vague, rambling lawsuit against Pacifica brought by her supporters on the national board (Carolyn Birden, Janet Coleman, Heather Gray, Kim Kaufman, Luzette King, Janet Kobren, Janis Lane-Ewart, Manijeh Saba and Richard Uzzell).

Not coincidentally, on the day those board members filed suit against Pacifica, they also filibustered a meeting of the Pacifica National Board that was intended to retain counsel for the foundation — an apparent attempt to sabotage the foundation’s ability to defend itself. National board members reported that the litigants were so disruptive in the closed portion of the meeting that they prevented the board from even approving its agenda before its mandatory adjournment time.

Terminated interim executive Summer Reese and her supporters have been generating prodigious amounts of misinformation, from wild allegations of corruption that she never raised before her termination, to breathless reports of police interventions that never actually occurred. The treasurer of the KPFA local station board has released a statement rebutting Reese’s charges of financial improprieties. All of KPFA’s financial information is publicly available.

SaveKPFA has prepared a concise Q&A that cuts through the smoke and deliberate obfuscation that seem to be a standard part of Reese’s game plan. The Q&A is also available as a PDF flyer you can download and distribute.

What you can do: Join the over 600 Pacifica network staff and listeners who have signed this open letter demanding Summer Reese leave peacefully. Signatories include former Pacifica National Affairs correspondent Larry Bensky, community activist Ying Lee, KPFA’s UpFront’s Brian Edwards-Tiekert, former Pacifica board chair Sherry Gendelman, KPFA’s Aileen Alfandary, labor journalist David Bacon, Alameda County School superintendent Sheila Jordan, KPFA’s Philip Maldari, former KPFA GM Jim Bennett and former KPFA iGM Andrew Phillips.

Comments by petition signers have been pointed. Listener Benjamin Balthaser wrote, “I am embarrassed by the actions of Reese and hope the station returns to its mission of providing critical and informative programming.” Lee Block wrote, “Pretty selfish of you to bring down the whole network because you feel dissed. You’re as bad as a Koch Brother.”

“This destructive behavior serves no purpose,” noted listener Saraswathi Devi. Listener and Free Speech Movement activist Lynne Hollander Savio captured the conclusion many observers have reached: “Unbelievable behavior, which just confirms the wisdom of the Board’s decision.” You can add your own name and comments here. | DOWNLOAD PDF FLYER OF OPEN LETTER

 

Posted in elections and governance, KPFA, KPFK, KPFT, Pacifica, Pacifica National Board, Summer Reese, WBAI, WPFW | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Hundreds of listeners demand Reese vacate office, others call her actions “unethical”

“This action reaches new levels of absurdity,” writes KPFA listener Catherine Bell to terminated exec Summer Reese, on a petition that has gathered over 500 signatures — and counting — in less than 72 hours. Listener Sandra Douglas writes to Pacifica’s fired executive: “Please, Please, Please stop your willful intent of the destruction of Pacifica.” And another listener, Sarah Kulberg, says: “Please, for the sake of Free Speech Radio, honor the process, and remove yourself from the office.” | ADD YOUR NAME

justgoaway“What are you accomplishing by locking yourself in the Pacifica office? You need to leave peacefully NOW,” writes listener Jane Kelsberg. “The shredding van pulling up to Pacifica office looks rather suspicious indeed,” says Bruce Campell, another signatory.

Meanwhile, local board members and staff are circulating this letter, saying Reese’s actions have been “unethical” and “improper,” and calling on her to allow an open and honest discussion of her claims.

FLYER: An open letter to Reese | FLYER: What’s happening at KPFA & Pacifica?

Posted in elections and governance, KPFA, Pacifica National Board, Summer Reese petition | Tagged | Comments Off

The truth about KPFA’s financial records, from the station’s treasurer

KPFA-radio-dialThis is a statement released on 4/2/14 by KPFA’s elected Local Station Board treasurer, Barbara Whipperman.

“The business manager at KPFA is working on a complicated reconciliation of the KPFA financial records. The complications center around the records of income from credit card donations, many thousands of records. There are statements from credit card processing companies involved, as well as the monthly bank statements.

“The temporary controller from the national office wanted to take all records out of the KPFA office, saying she would complete the reconciliation in the national office. Neither the business manager nor I (KPFA LSB treasurer) agreed to this. In other words, we refused to turn over this function to the national office.

“There has been no refusal to prepare for the necessary audit, the preparations are under way. As treasurer, with many years experience in this kind of work, I have been assisting the business manager where possible. Any claim that all the other stations are completely ready for the auditors is completely false, and those in the national office who are
saying so, know that it is not true.

“I have personally examined the records in the KPFA business office. All records are complete and in order, in preparation for and up to the reconciliation to the bank statements, which, as I have said is well under way.”

Barbara Whipperman
KPFA LSB listener representative and Treasurer

FLYER: An open letter to Reese | FLYER: What’s happening at KPFA & Pacifica?

Posted in finances, KPFA, Pacifica audit, Summer Reese | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off