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 Weekly, Reese’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.”
Pacifica’s top official moved to oust KPFA’s interim general manager, Andrew Phillips in a phone call on April 12th. Phillips told KPFA’s elected Local Station Board (LSB) on April 13 that interim Pacifica executive director Summer Reese told him to vacate his office within a week. Here’s a report that ran on the Pacifica Evening News.
The LSB passed two measures in response. The first states: “The KPFA Local Station Board opposes any move by Pacifica to remove or replace a KPFA manager without the meaningful participation of KPFA’s elected Local Station Board and consultation with KPFA’s paid and unpaid staff.” This resolution passed with a vote of 15 yes, 1 no, and 4 abstentions.
The second states: “Based on the information we have as of this date, the KPFA Local Station Board supports continuing the tenure of Andrew Phillips as interim general manager until the process of hiring a permanent general manager is complete.” The vote for this one was 14 yes, 0 no and 3 abstentions. Several members crossed factional lines to vote for (or abstain on) these resolutions.
Phillips was given the job in early 2011 by then-executive director Arlene Engelhart, and he faced widespread criticism – including a vote of “no confidence” by the local board in September 2011. Subsequently, Engelhardt rejected the LSB’s recommended pool of applicants for the permanent GM job.
By most accounts, Phillips had grown on the job and won support from many quarters. But the issue isn’t only about him. It’s about local control at KPFA, Pacifica overstepping its authority, and a fair, legal and democratic process for hiring and firing. | WRITE Pacifica via this page, SIGNpetition, LISTEN to the KPFA LSB meeting: part 1 (manager’s report followed by discussion starts at 23:30), part 2
Several in-person meetings of KPFA’s paid and volunteer staff have overwhelmingly supported the essence of these resolutions, and over 60 workers have signed a public statement (page 1 | page 2) insisting on a full investigation before any action is taken.
The Pacifica National Board met on April 25 behind closed doors and presumably discussed the situation at KPFA. On May 2, Pacifica suddenly put Phillips “on leave” and installed a new interim manager. | REPORT on the Pacifica Evening News
Phillips was given the job in early 2011 by then-executive director Arlene Engelhart, and he faced widespread criticism, including a vote of “no confidence” by the local board in September 2011. Shortly afterward, Engelhardt rejected the LSB’s recommended candidates for the permanent GM job.
In an encouraging sign that KPFA’s management is serious about trying to rein in the length of fund drives, KPFA’s Fall Fund Drive ended last Friday, after 19 days of fundraising — five days shorter than the previous year’s. It also ended short of its goal by roughly $140,000.
KPFA is trying to make up some of the difference through online pledges — so we encourage you to contribute at kpfa.org.
Some context: KPFA was forced to lengthen its fund drives dramatically over the past two years to compensate for the drop in pledging after now-ousted Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt axed KPFA’s Morning Show.
One of the greatest challenges facing KPFA is to find a way to shorten its fund drives before it’s trapped in a downward spiral of diminishing returns and dropping listenership from too much airtime devoted to asking for support.
KPFA’s interim manager took a step in the right direction when he returned former Morning Show co-host Brian Edwards-Tiekert to morning drive time, with the introduction of UpFront weekdays at 7 AM. On its first day, the program delivered KPFA’s top fundraising totals — and has ever since. The money raised during UpFront in KPFA’s Summer Fund Drive helped make that drive the first in years to both end on schedule and beat its goal.
New approach to fund drives?
In the current drive, UpFront‘s fundraising has continued to grow, but the station overall was flagging. Fall fundraisers have historically been hard for KPFA in Presidential election years, as the elections tend to siphon off donations, time and attention. Facing daily totals that would have required the station to extend the drive to four weeks or more to make goal, management decided to end it and make a strong appeal to listeners to support that effort.
It paid off: in the three days after KPFA announced it would end its fund drive early, the station raised more money than in the previous eight days. And while KPFA may need to add a few days of fundraising in December to make up the difference, it will be far fewer days than KPFA would have had to extend its Fall fund drive to actually make its goal.
Now, KPFA is back to producing strong, uninterrupted programming — the kind of work that is especially important in the run-up to a major election. We think it’s a step in the right direction, and SaveKPFAis strongly encouraging KPFA listeners to show their support by pledging online at kpfa.org/support.
There is a second reason it’s important to support KPFA right now: the station’s new fiscal year has begun, Pacifica treasurer Tracy Rosenberg has extended her grip on office by tying up the recall vote count in court, and we fully expect her to use the fund drive shortfall as an pretext to push for retaliatory cuts at KPFA in the weeks to come.