At the March 3rd Local Station Board meeting, treasurer Barbara Whipperman and KPFA business manager Maria Negret reported serious problems getting documentation from Pacifica for “bill-back” expenses being passed on to KPFA. Each of the five Pacifica-owned stations, including KPFA, are obligated to pay 19.5% of their income to the network for central services. “Bill-backs” are in addition to that.
Over the past 16 months, Pacifica has been receiving and keeping funds intended for KPFA, including grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, bequests, and stock donations — ostensibly to apply toward debt KPFA owes it. Often, KPFA doesn’t find out Pacifica has accepted money on its behalf until months after the fact.
The amount of KPFA funding that Pacifica has intercepted over the last 16 months adds up to about $681,700. KPFA has also been paying bills from Pacifica “bill-backs” for legal expenses, administrative services, and the like — if you add the money KPFA has paid directly to the amount Pacifica has intercepted, the total is approximately $854,000. Here’s the problem: Pacifica’s bills to KPFA over the same period only total to $700,000.
So what happened to the $154,000 KPFA overpaid? “Well, that’s what we would like to know,” the business manager said.
Meanwhile, the bills from Pacifica have been short on detail. For instance: Pacifica charged KPFA $115,000 in legal expenses relating to “labor issues” in the past 16 months, but has provided KPFA very little documentation on what the charges are for. In past years, Pacifica shared itemized billing statements from attorneys, and KPFA’s staff were able to catch items incorrectly charged to KPFA for expenses incurred at other stations. Now, KPFA’s staff don’t even know what the station is being charged for.
“If Visa were to send you a bill in the mail and say ‘you owe $10,000,’ would you just pay it without asking what that was about?” said Negret.
Pacifica’s financial statements also show that its National Office and other parts of the network still owe KPFA $1.4 million dollars in long-term debt. | LISTEN to 3 minute clip of business manager | LISTEN to the entire board meeting: part 1, part 2, part 3