Fixing Pacifica

Margy Wilkinson
Margy Wilkinson

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

pacifica logoThe 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.

RELATED STORIES:  Pacifica: putting the pieces back together (includes financial report) | Lawyer representing board minority jumps ship | Finally, local control at KPFA

Pacifica broadcaster Sonali Kolhatkar joins AM up; KPFA pledge drive over the top!

sonali_pub_shotKPFA 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 

kpfamikeguitarKPFA just successfully wrapped up its spring 2014 fund drive. The “unofficial” tally at press time is $762,024, far surpassing the fund drive’s goal of $722,000. 

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.

kpfabumperstickerPLEASE SHOW YOUR SUPPORT for the addition of Uprising Radio to KPFA’s morning schedule, by contacting interim GM Richard Pirodsky at richard@kpfa.org or (510) 848-6767 x 203 and interim Pacifica executive director Bernard Duncan at ed@pacifica.org 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.

Some still clinging to the past

Reese using a bolt cutter to break into Pacifica's offices
Reese using a bolt cutter to break into Pacifica’s offices

[UPDATE 4/9/14 @10:05 am: The national board minority’s attempt to get a Temporary Restraining Order to allow Reese to keep her job has been DENIED by the Alameda County Superior Court. More news as we have it.]

Pacifica’s former interim executive director, Summer Reese, remains barricaded in her former office, which she broke into with bolt cutters four days after the elected Pacifica National Board voted 11-7 to end her employment. In violation of California law, she’s still illegally blocking elected members of Pacifica’s Board of Directors from entering the premises to look at financial records.

Over the past week, Reese made moves to sabotage Pacifica’s funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by complaining to the organization’s Inspector General about financial problems that either took place while she was running the organization, or that she failed to fix during her tenure. Reese has also signed a lengthy declaration as part of vague, rambling lawsuit against Pacifica brought by her supporters on the national board (Carolyn Birden, Janet Coleman, Heather Gray, Kim Kaufman, Luzette King, Janet Kobren, Janis Lane-Ewart, Manijeh Saba and Richard Uzzell).

Not coincidentally, on the day those board members filed suit against Pacifica, they also filibustered a meeting of the Pacifica National Board that was intended to retain counsel for the foundation — an apparent attempt to sabotage the foundation’s ability to defend itself. National board members reported that the litigants were so disruptive in the closed portion of the meeting that they prevented the board from even approving its agenda before its mandatory adjournment time.

Terminated interim executive Summer Reese and her supporters have been generating prodigious amounts of misinformation, from wild allegations of corruption that she never raised before her termination, to breathless reports of police interventions that never actually occurred. The treasurer of the KPFA local station board has released a statement rebutting Reese’s charges of financial improprieties. All of KPFA’s financial information is publicly available.

SaveKPFA has prepared a concise Q&A that cuts through the smoke and deliberate obfuscation that seem to be a standard part of Reese’s game plan. The Q&A is also available as a PDF flyer you can download and distribute.

What you can do: Join the over 600 Pacifica network staff and listeners who have signed this open letter demanding Summer Reese leave peacefully. Signatories include former Pacifica National Affairs correspondent Larry Bensky, community activist Ying Lee, KPFA’s UpFront’s Brian Edwards-Tiekert, former Pacifica board chair Sherry Gendelman, KPFA’s Aileen Alfandary, labor journalist David Bacon, Alameda County School superintendent Sheila Jordan, KPFA’s Philip Maldari, former KPFA GM Jim Bennett and former KPFA iGM Andrew Phillips.

Comments by petition signers have been pointed. Listener Benjamin Balthaser wrote, “I am embarrassed by the actions of Reese and hope the station returns to its mission of providing critical and informative programming.” Lee Block wrote, “Pretty selfish of you to bring down the whole network because you feel dissed. You’re as bad as a Koch Brother.”

“This destructive behavior serves no purpose,” noted listener Saraswathi Devi. Listener and Free Speech Movement activist Lynne Hollander Savio captured the conclusion many observers have reached: “Unbelievable behavior, which just confirms the wisdom of the Board’s decision.” You can add your own name and comments here. | DOWNLOAD PDF FLYER OF OPEN LETTER