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.
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.
Now, the lawyer for the so-called “Pacifica Directors for Good Governance” (PDGG) has asked the court allow her to quit the case, in heavily-redacted public papers filed June 19. Sources close to the case tell SaveKPFA that the attorney is tired of footing the PDGG plaintiff’s growing legal bill, as well as with members of the PDGG group giving her conflicting “instructions” that are illegal.
This is the same group that is circulating a petition falsely accusing the new board majority of “dismantling” the network. “The new Pacifica board majority is working overtime to undo the deep financial damage that Reese and her followers have caused to Pacifica,” said Sasha Futran, a SaveKPFA activist and former KPFA LSB member. “We hope to find a way for us to all work together in rebuilding Pacifica and ensuring a long future for KPFA,” she added.