Pacifica’s National Office next door to KPFA is functioning once again, three weeks after an Alameda County court granted the network a temporary injunction against former executive Summer Reese, who along with her mother and a small band of supporters, were obstructing the network’s operations. UPDATE: The court issued a preliminary injunction reiterating its ruling against Reese 6/2.
Judge Ioana Petrou’s 17-page decision on May 12 demolished every single argument of the plaintiffs, the so-called “Pacifica Directors for Good Governance,” who filed a lawsuit on Reese’s behalf. Evidence raised during the hearing confirmed that Reese’s allies on the national board had prepared and signed a separate, secret contract with her that would have made Reese essentially unaccountable and unfireable — and given her a huge pay increase to $105,000 a year — all without the knowledge of the rest of the board.
For these reasons, the judge issued an injunction upholding the validity of the board majority’s action and ordering Reese to leave the national office immediately. But that injunction was temporary, and now the court will rule on whether to make the injunction permanent. While the issues are the same, Reese and her supporters are now challenging the right of Pacifica’s lawyers to represent Pacifica – a move clearly borne of desperation on their part.
With this spring’s new majority on the Pacifica National Board and Reese’s ouster last month, the network is moving forward once again.
After special broadcasts of Sonali Kolhatkar‘s Uprising Radio pushed KPFA’s spring fund drive far above its goal, the station’s interim general manager Richard Pirodsky added the program to KPFA’s morning lineup at 8am, following the very popular UpFront with Brian Edwards-Tiekert at 7am. Along with Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! at 9am, and Mitch Jeserich’s Letters & Politics at 10am, the drive time programming has been overwhelmingly popular with listeners, and is important in giving the station a sound financial footing, at a time when it one of the few of the five Pacifica-owned stations not in the red. The Morning Mix hosts are now broadcasting in the afternoon.
Word is that the new interim executive director appointed by the national board, Bernard Duncan, is on the verge of announcing a new permanent KPFA general manager for KPFA from among three finalists.
Staff and community members who were introduced to these finalists during a “meet and greet” session in May have described each of them as “excellent,” “outstanding” and “promising.” This exciting development is long overdue. The Local Station Board chose the finalists and submitted their names back in November 2013 to Pacifica’s then-interim executive director, who failed to fulfill her obligation hire one.
“After an era period of transient managers and interference by Pacifica administrators with their own agendas,” said Local Station Board secretary Craig Alderson, “we’re now looking forward to a permanent general manager, vetted by local representatives, who will actually be able to address the KPFA’s critical issues instead of just treading water. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Dear KPFA Family,
KPFA’s Spring Fund Drive just ended. But if you missed it, there is still time to show your support.
Please, take 60 seconds to pledge online at www.kpfa.org
You rose up and did all you could to make this drive a success. And so KPFA is rising to the challenge to offer you “Uprising,” a show new to the Bay Area hosted by “Up Front” co-host Sonali Kolhatkar.
During its trial run this week, it generated the most consistent support of any program during the drive. You spoke and we listened. By offering “Uprising” every weekday at 8am and presenting the Morning Mix hosts later in the day, we’ll be doing our part.
Please continue to do your part right now at www.kpfa.org.
We have dozens of amazing thank-you gifts on offer at kpfa.org – including the KPFA Spring Speech Pack, featuring fascinating talks, including some from the KPFA Events Series. The collection includes gifted individuals such as Jane Goodall, Matt Taibbi, Nomi Prins, Ali Abunimah, Thomas Piketty, and Peter Dale Scott.
The Events Series is just one of the many services, from the KPFA Crafts Fair to the Apprentice Program to the website archive of every KPFA program, which only KPFA makes available to you.
Join the thousands of listeners who’ve already pledged to support the programs and services that KPFA and KPFA alone has to offer. The drive may have ended, but all the good work must continue –give now at www.kpfa.org.
Pacifica Foundation Radio 94.1FM
KPFA announced today that award-winning Pacifica programmer Sonali Kolhatkar will bring her Uprising Radio to our station each week day from 8-9am. Kolhatkar is co-host of KPFA’s 7 a.m. drive-time program UpFront, with Brian Edwards-Tiekert. She also produces Uprising Radio on KPFA’s sister station KPFK in Los Angeles.
In a statement sent widely to listeners, interim general manager of KPFA and KPFK, Richard Pirodsky said, “This week’s broadcast of Uprising Radio on KPFA and KPFK during our spring on-air fund drive has produced spectacular results. We’re pleased to bring Sonali’s smart, progressive program to KPFA’s airwaves – and to know that listeners will respond during our fund drive.”
Kolkathar also welcomed the move, saying in the statement that she was “thrilled that Uprising is expanding to KPFA and will strive to live up to the high standards that Pacifica listeners expect from their beloved station!”
Kolhatkar program is also expanding to national television via Free Speech TV, starting in July. KPFA’s statement reads: “The broadcast of Uprising Radio on KPFA is but the latest collaboration between the Pacifica ‘Left Coast’ stations KPFA-Berkeley and KPFK-Los Angeles. The popular Letters and Politics produced at KPFA by Mitch Jeserich airs on KPFK and the News Departments at KPFA, KPFK and KFCF Fresno collaborate to
produce the Pacifica Evening News.” | READ KPFA’s ANNOUNCEMENT, message from iGM Richard Pirodsky
KPFA’s fund drive gets big boost from court ruling
The drive received a shot in the arm on May 12, when an Alameda County Superior Court judge ordered fired Pacifica executive director Summer Reese to vacate the Pacifica National Office next door to KPFA where she, her mother and a small band of supporters were camped out. Immediately following the news, listener donations skyrocketed. | READ NEWS COVERAGE from Current, the Pacifica Evening News, the Daily Californian, the San Jose Mercury | READ the judge’s decision
Listeners also responded enthusiastically when KPFA began an 8 AM simulcast of the popular KPFK program Uprising Radio hosted by Sonali Kolhatkar. Fundraising totals from the program totaled as much as $15,000 per day, split between KPFK and KPFA.
Digging further into the numbers, the five hours of joint fundraising with Kolhatkar at 8 AM raised a total of $57,388 for KPFA (even with the rollover pledge answering service down for one day). KPFA also rebroadcast Kolhatkar’s programs and pitches during the last week of fundraising on six other occasions, raising a total of $35,419 more. That’s $92,847 that Kolhatkar raised for KPFA in four and a half days!
Kolkathar’s 8 AM average was an astonishing $11,477 per hour. Analysis showed the pledges were almost 50/50 for KPFK and KPFA, or an average of about $5,738 per hour at each station.
Uprising will continue to air as the newest addition to KPFA’s morning line up at 8 AM. Kolkathar describes her program as “a daily digest of independent news analysis, investigation, education, artistic expression and activism.”
The Morning Mix shows formerly airing at 8 AM have been offered afternoon time slots, and some other programs’ air time have also been moved:
Project Censored with Mickey Huff and Peter Phillips will air Fridays from 1-2pm.
Terre Verde will move from 1pm to 2pm on Friday.
Sabrina Jacobs will air every Monday from 3:30-4pm.
Steve Zeltzer will air every Tuesday from 3:30-4pm
Open Book will air every Wednesday from 3:30-4pm
Andres Soto will air every Thursday from 3:30-4pm.
Counter Spin will air every Friday from 3-3:30pm
Making Contact will air every Friday from 3:30-4pm.
PLEASE SHOW YOUR SUPPORT for the addition of Uprising Radio to KPFA’s morning schedule, by contacting interim GM Richard Pirodsky at firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 848-6767 x 203 and interim Pacifica executive director Bernard Duncan at email@example.com or 510-849-2590 x 208.
If you didn’t get a chance to pledge to KPFA and would like to, the “thank you” gifts offered during the fund drive will remain available for the next week. Find them online at KPFA’s webpage.
On 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).
“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.
Judge 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
The 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.
The 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 DOCUMENTS: Memorandum 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 Lee, UpFront’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.”
KPFA celebrated 65 years of amazing radio on April 15 and we all said HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the station we love.
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.
Mitch 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
A 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.
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.”
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.”