On September 17, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Ioana Petrou made two more rulings in favor of the new leadership at Pacifica, the nonprofit that owns KPFA, following a series that began in May.
Petrou granted a demurrer against the lawsuit brought by Pacifica Directors for Good Governance (PDGG), a group of Pacifica National Board members who supported terminated executive Summer Reese‘s attempt to seize Pacifica’s national office by force. The ruling gave PDGG 10 days to fix the legal deficiencies in their lawsuit, or have it thrown out. The 10 days are now up, so their lawsuit is basically dead.
The board members behind the PDGG’s lawsuit 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).
Along the way, court filings regarding a falling out that the PDGG had with their attorney, Amy Sommer-Anderson, indicated that they ran their lawsuit much the way they had run the Pacifica network when they were in charge of it — by running up large bills they had no plans to pay. Sommer-Anderson filed to have herself removed as counsel because PDGG owed her more than $20,000 in overdue costs and attorneys’ fees.
Judge Petrou also rejected a demurrer from Summer Reese in the action that Pacifica brought to get a court order forcing her to abandon the offices inside which she had barricaded herself. The court also rejected a motion from Reese, representing herself, to disqualify Judge Petrou from hearing the case — on unspecified charges of prejudice.
Has there ever been a Pacifica board more out of touch with KPFA’s listeners? Three days ago, the board’s lame-duck majority passed a McCarthy-like resolution to quash dissenters in the network.
Hundreds of listeners and staff wrote to members of the Pacifica National Board (PNB) earlier this month when the anti-dissent “loyalty” measure first came up, calling it a political witch hunt. (A sampling of the letters is here, and you can add your voice here.)
“Putting forward rules about ‘loyalty’ under the guise of financial duty is a trick that Joe McCarthy himself would have been proud of,” wrote listener Elly Larsen. “Stop the witch-hunting, get back to fixing the network, which is badly broken, or you’re going to lose the whole kit-n-caboodle with your juvenile power games.”
Drafted by allies of KPFA board member Tracy Rosenberg, the “loyalty” measure bans those who dissent from serving on local or national boards. Cloaked in references to “harmful or malicious behavior,” including “breaches of loyalty” and “fiduciary care,” its main target is the Morning Show 4 — KPFA board members Margy Wilkinson, Dan Siegel, Mal Burnstein and Conn Hallinan — who led a 2011 SaveKPFA campaign that collected over $60,000 in pledges to restore the KPFA Morning Show, after Pacifica claimed it cancelled the show for financial reasons.
Hundreds of listeners gave pledges of support (not actual money) in that campaign, but Pacifica refused to accept them. Rosenberg’s allies then slapped the four SaveKPFA activists with a lawsuit demanding $800,000 in “damages” for the fundraising activity, which they claim is “disloyal” to Pacifica. The lawsuit is pending, but Rosenberg has been publicly proclaiming it as a win for her side.
“I am appalled and shocked to hear that 4 KPFA listeners, all of whom are much respected in the community, are being sued for $800,000 for their KPFA fundraising activities,” wrote KPFA listener Alan Smith to the Pacifica board, echoing many others. “It is clear whomever drafted [the measure] has no sense of history or progressive values and does not belong on the Pacifica board.”
“The idea that someone breached their fiduciary duties by raising money for the station – NOT self-dealing – is itself ridiculous,” KPFA listener Clyde Leland wrote to the Pacifica board. “The further step of making loyalty a qualification for service on the Local Station Board is worse. It is sickening anti-democratic moves like this that are tearing this station apart.”
The “loyalty” measure was tabled on a vote of 11-9 two weeks ago, but mysteriously appeared on Pacifica’s phone meeting agenda last Thursday, during which it was “taken off the table” and immediately voted on it (a violation of procedure). Nia Bediako, a delegate from New York’s WBAI, has asked that the record show that the resolution was not properly before the body.
Contempt for listeners, democratic process
“The measure displays a stunning contempt for the process and the KPFA listenership,” said Margy Wilkinson, former KPFA board chair and one of the station’s delegates-elect to the Pacifica board, who listened to the meeting online. “It was clear from the discussion that Pacifica’s own attorney had counseled against adopting the measure, and we know that board members had received many messages from listeners urging them to reject it.”
Supporters of the “loyalty” measure included Pacifica board chair Summer Reese, a KPFK delegate, who despite having not been part of the meeting, phoned in just before the vote to support it, making the count 10-10. Then, KPFT delegate Bill Crosier, serving as chair, broke the tie, making the final recorded vote 11-10.
Several board members who supported the measure are lame ducks whose terms have technically expired. In violation of Pacifica’s bylaws, incumbent board members had unilaterally extended their own terms by delaying seating of incoming PNB delegates until late February.
How much damage can they do in the next month? The anti-dissent measure was only one of several measures passed which will further undermine local control at KPFA and other Pacifica stations. Newly-elected Pacifica delegates may move to reconsider the “loyalty” measure and others when they are finally seated next month. We’ll keep you informed.