Interim KPFA manager leaving, but Pacifica’s Engelhardt refuses to follow bylaws in replacing him

Just after the recent fund drive ended, KPFA’s interim general manager Andrew Phillips announced he’ll be leaving as of June 30. KPFA’s Local Station Board (LSB) had been interviewing candidates for the permanent general manager position, and passed this resolution last month objecting to Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt‘s apparent refusal to do her part, under the bylaws, to finish that process. The LSB had interviewed candidates and chosen a pool of 3 it found qualified. The bylaws require Engelhardt to hire a GM from that pool, but Engelhardt dragged the process out for months, then refused to make a choice.

KPFA board member Conn Hallinan, who headed the GM search committee, made this 5-minute report at last month’s LSB meeting, concluding that the rights of KPFA’s listeners and staff to run their station were being “eviscerated.”

KPFA’s local board chair Margy Wilkinson and vice chair Sasha Futran met with Engelhardt on June 5. Engelhardt told them she was not going to hire a permanent general manager from the LSB’s pool, but was instead looking for another interim GM to replace Phillips. She said she was talking to 4 people “suggested by media and communications professionals.” When Wilkinson and Futran pointed out to Engelhardt that this was the second time in her tenure that she was moving to appoint a manager without any consultation with KPFA’s local board or staff, she had no response.

LSB to Pacifica: stop stalling on general manager hire

One of the few powers KPFA’s Local Station Board (LSB) has under the Pacifica bylaws is to interview and choose a pool of candidates for the position of permanent general manager. Pacifica’s executive director is obligated, under the bylaws, to hire from the LSB’s pool. KPFA’s board interviewed and chose 3 highly-qualified candidates and forwarded their names to Arlene Engelhardt at the beginning of March.

The response from Engelhardt? She has not hired any of them, or returned calls from KPFA’s board members. So this past weekend, LSB members felt they had no option but to pass a formal resolution asking Engelhardt to report on the matter “within one week.”Engelhardt replied immediately, saying that she “had met with the top two candidates and am seriously considering them. I will be out of town from April 11-21, returning to the office on April 23 and will finalize and announce my decision that week.” KPFA’s current manager, Andrew Phillips, was appointed as “interim” by Engelhardt over a year ago, without even posting a job description, let alone seeking input from listeners, staff, or KPFA’s elected Local Board.

KPFA on the brink: pledge drive falls $125,000 short

Recall endoser Larry Bensky with KPFA's Antonio Ortiz & John Hamilton
Recall endoser Larry Bensky with KPFA's Antonio Ortiz & John Hamilton

The station ended its Winter Fund Drive one week ago, $125,000 short of its pledge goal. This is sad news for everyone who cares about KPFA, and it underscores the importance of change at Pacifica.

Pacifica’s re-programming of 6-10 AM is behind the shortfall. Those time slots used to raise 40% of KPFA’s total pledges. Since the destruction of the Morning Show, that’s dropped by more than half. For a time, station management was able to offset the plunge by lengthening fund drives, but they’ve run into diminishing returns from that strategy. (This year’s Winter Fund Drive ran 24 days, a whopping 50% increase from the length of the last Winter Fund Drive before the Morning Show was axed).

By any measure, the morning lineup that Pacifica imposed on KPFA has been a catastrophic failure. But instead of fixing it, Rosenberg, and the Pacifica managers she backs, are still defending it. They rejected over $63,000 that SaveKPFA raised to pay for the reinstatement of the Morning Show. They spent more money on lawyers to fight Morning Show co-host Aimee Allison‘s reinstatement than it would have cost to keep her on payroll for a year. And they’ll keep doing it until KPFA’s voting members call them to account.