The Pacifica National Board (PNB) voted 11-5 on August 14 to censure members Heather Gray (affiliates rep) and Richard Uzzell (KPFT) “for the illegal, unauthorized, and irresponsible act of signing a secret contract with the former Interim Executive Director Summer Reese, which they dated January 30, 2014 and in which they made promises that exceeded the terms approved by the PNB, and which a judge has affirmed is invalid. Their action, the ill will and controversy it caused, and the continuing costs to defend against a lawsuit in which the false contract was used have caused serious damage to the Foundation.” | BACKGROUND on the secret contract here
During discussion of the motion made by board member Adriana Casenave (KPFT), SaveKPFA member and elected Pacifica financial chair Brian Edwards-Tiekert (KPFA) called their actions “an astonishing abdication of any commitment to the well-being” of Pacifica. The five members who voted against the censure motion were Heather Gray (affiliates), Richard Uzzell (KPFT), Janet Coleman (WBAI), Janet Kobren (KPFA) and Kim Kaufman (KPFK). | LISTEN to audio of Edwards-Tiekert (1:30 min); the entire board discussion is near the end this recording.
Uzzell is currently facing an effort to recall him from the Pacifica National Board at his home station of KPFT in Houston. Gray will face re-election in December, when the same board that voted to censure her will decide whether she can continue to represent Pacifica’s affiliate stations.
Pacifica is the nonprofit that owns KPFA and 4 other radio stations across the country. When this summer started, it was in chaos. Recently-terminated executive Summer Reese had barricaded herself in Pacifica’s offices, blocking elected board members’ access to Pacifica financial records. Her supporters were suing to reinstate her and throw some elected members off Pacifica’s board. And vendors whose bills Reese had left unpaid for more than a year were starting to file lawsuits to collect.
SaveKPFA‘s members and representatives have been hard at work to put things to rights. In May, long-time civil rights attorney (and SaveKPFA member) Dan Siegel took on Pacifica’s legal woes, winning a court decision that rejected each and argument by Reese’s supporters, and securing a court order that forced her to leave the building.
By late June, Pacifica’s chief financial officer, Raul Salvador, whom Reese had also locked out, had re-secured access to all of Pacifica’s accounts and electronic records. In July, Pacifica Board Chair (and SaveKPFA member) Margy Wilkinson became Pacifica’s de facto executive director, a job she’s doing on a volunteer basis while she works to get a permanent replacement into that position.
In a recent report, Wilkinson described an office left in complete disarray. “The staff in the national office is working hard. They are 5 (plus me) at this point – trying to locate files, reconstruct financial records, getting papers in their proper places, fielding calls from anxious vendors and trying to get a fix on how much money we owe and how many bills we can pay.”
The silver lining: by volunteering her time, leaving some recently-vacated positions unfilled, and whittling away at unnecessary bills, Wilkinson has already made significant cuts to spending at Pacifica’s national office. Wilkinson also reports progress resolving union/management conflicts at WPFW in Washington DC, and on making major reductions in the rental costs for the antenna of WBAI in New York, Pacifica’s most financially-distressed station.
Financial committee chair reports
The new chair of Pacifica’s national finance committee, KPFA staff representative (and SaveKPFA member) Brian Edwards-Tiekert, has issued a report on the state of Pacifica’s books. “Most of Pacifica’s cash transactions (deposits and wire transfers, especially transfers between Pacifica’s stations and the national office) have not been recorded in its accounting system since the beginning of the fiscal year (October 2013). Beginning with the National Office takeover in March 2014, all payrolls went unrecorded. There is some evidence that inappropriate and unauthorized payments were made during this time.”
“Meanwhile,” Edwards-Tiekert’s report continued, “it appears few spending controls were in place at Pacifica: during a period when the Pacifica National Office was adding staff and raising salaries, it was also racking up large unpaid bills with vendors, attorneys, and consulting firms — the folks now working in the national office have discovered unpaid bills going back to last year that were never disclosed to the board, many of which were never recorded in Pacifica’s accounting system either. The poor state of the books makes it difficult to determine which past-due bills need to be prioritized. Two vendors have filed lawsuits against Pacifica to collect on what’s owed to them.”
But, Edwards-Tiekert added, he has confidence in the people working to clean things up. Their top priorities: completing a long-overdue audit to help secure the release of Pacifica’s Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants, and publishing long-overdue financial statements for the current fiscal year so that Pacifica can take stock of what it needs to do to bring its budget into balance and start catching up on unpaid bills.
Former Pacifica executive Summer Reese had also stalled the hire of a permanent general manager for KPFA, which has had a series of interim appointments since early 2010. (The difference: “permanent” managers are hired with participation of KPFA’s elected board, which also gets a say in whether they’re terminated. “Interim” managers are installed and removed at the whim of Pacifica — making it much more difficult for them to protect the interests of the station.)
KPFA’s elected Local Station Board had submitted a pool of candidates for the position last fall — but Reese failed to hire from it, opting instead to keep the position filled by “interim” appointments until the end of her tenure.
At the end of June, KPFA finally announced the hire of a new permanent GM: veteran broadcaster and nonprofit manager Quincy McCoy. McCoy will be delivering his first report to KPFA’s Local Station Board this Saturday, which will be held at the SEIU Local 1021 hall, 155 Myrtle St., Oakland, from 11 am to 4 pm. The public is welcome. [Meeting recording is here.] Now that he’s in place, KPFA’s Local Station Board is moving forward with hiring a permanent Program Director — something the station hasn’t had for 15 years.
SaveKPFA heartily supports that call: for the first time in years, Pacifica has leadership that is bringing transparency and accountability to its finances, and allowing KPFA’s elected board a meaningful role in choosing the station’s leadership. The financial mess left by previous management is daunting, but manageable — if KPFA and the other Pacifica stations can meet their fundraising goals. Please donate at www.kpfa.org.