Interim KPFA manager leaving, but Pacifica’s Engelhardt refuses to follow bylaws in replacing him

Just after the recent fund drive ended, KPFA’s interim general manager Andrew Phillips announced he’ll be leaving as of June 30. KPFA’s Local Station Board (LSB) had been interviewing candidates for the permanent general manager position, and passed this resolution last month objecting to Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt‘s apparent refusal to do her part, under the bylaws, to finish that process. The LSB had interviewed candidates and chosen a pool of 3 it found qualified. The bylaws require Engelhardt to hire a GM from that pool, but Engelhardt dragged the process out for months, then refused to make a choice.

KPFA board member Conn Hallinan, who headed the GM search committee, made this 5-minute report at last month’s LSB meeting, concluding that the rights of KPFA’s listeners and staff to run their station were being “eviscerated.”

KPFA’s local board chair Margy Wilkinson and vice chair Sasha Futran met with Engelhardt on June 5. Engelhardt told them she was not going to hire a permanent general manager from the LSB’s pool, but was instead looking for another interim GM to replace Phillips. She said she was talking to 4 people “suggested by media and communications professionals.” When Wilkinson and Futran pointed out to Engelhardt that this was the second time in her tenure that she was moving to appoint a manager without any consultation with KPFA’s local board or staff, she had no response.

LSB to Pacifica: stop stalling on general manager hire

One of the few powers KPFA’s Local Station Board (LSB) has under the Pacifica bylaws is to interview and choose a pool of candidates for the position of permanent general manager. Pacifica’s executive director is obligated, under the bylaws, to hire from the LSB’s pool. KPFA’s board interviewed and chose 3 highly-qualified candidates and forwarded their names to Arlene Engelhardt at the beginning of March.

The response from Engelhardt? She has not hired any of them, or returned calls from KPFA’s board members. So this past weekend, LSB members felt they had no option but to pass a formal resolution asking Engelhardt to report on the matter “within one week.”Engelhardt replied immediately, saying that she “had met with the top two candidates and am seriously considering them. I will be out of town from April 11-21, returning to the office on April 23 and will finalize and announce my decision that week.” KPFA’s current manager, Andrew Phillips, was appointed as “interim” by Engelhardt over a year ago, without even posting a job description, let alone seeking input from listeners, staff, or KPFA’s elected Local Board.

No confidence in Pacifica-appointed manager, says local board

On September 10, KPFA’s Local Station Board passed a resolution saying it had “no confidence” in KPFA’s interim general manager Andrew Leslie Phillips, who was installed by Pacifica’s executive director Arlene Engelhardt about six months ago. The vote was 11-8. All SaveKPFA-affiliated board members present voted for the measure.

“After Pacifica cancelled the Morning Show and laid off its co-hosts, it rejected $63,000 in pledges to help return the program, hired an anti-union law firm to fight KPFA’s staff to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in KPFA’s own funds, and continued making top-down, ill-advised program changes,” said Drake. “We find this unconscionable,” she added.

For details, see Phillips’ support for business “sponsorships” at KPFA (i.e., underwriting), his actions on programming and fundraising, and his approach to station staff.

Delegates to the San Francisco Labor Council unanimously passed a second resolution last week supporting KPFA’s workers.

Audio of the entire September 10 Local Station Board meeting is available here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 [note: sounds quality improves after first few minutes]. | KPFA News coverage (audio mp3) | Public comment from meeting (7 min audio clip)

See also: KPFA listeners deliver petitions demand recall vote