Judge denies TRO to Pacifica board members backing terminated executive

gavelToday, 9 members of the Pacifica National Board tried to convince an Alameda County Judge to overturn the actions of the democratically-elected majority sitting on that board. They lost.

The plaintiffs are Janet Coleman (WBAI), Carolyn Birden (WBAI), Manijeh Saba (WBAI), Luzette King (WPFW), Richard Uzzell (KPFT), Kim Kaufman (KPFK), Janet Kobren (KPFA), Heather Grey (Affiliates) and Janis Lane-Ewert (Affiliates). They were out-voted when the new Pacifica majority began making changes last month, such as renewing its programming and listener base, and terminating interim executive director Summer Reese, who reacted by breaking into Pacifica’s offices with bolt cutters and refusing to leave. Coverage appeared in the San Jose Mercury News and Reuters, among other places.

Those suing had gone to court without following basic due process requirements: they didn’t communicate their intent to file a lawsuit beforehand; they didn’t even serve notice on the board members they are suing.

They had so badly mangled the procedural part of filing the lawsuit, that Judge Ioana Petrou didn’t even get into the merits of their argument. She denied their motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, and scheduled the next phase of the lawsuit — a preliminary injunction hearing — for May 6.

At one point, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Amy Sommer Anderson, asked for more time. “On very short notice, you put this on my calendar” the judge chastised her.

Pacifica National Board chair Margy Wilkinson said, “I hope today’s decision will encourage the plaintiffs to express dissent with their voices and their votes, not litigation. Pacifica is in a fragile state, and can’t afford the time or expense of this lawsuit.”

Hundreds of Pacifica’s listeners apparently agree, as they are signing and commenting on a petition demanding Reese and her supporters respect the majority’s decision.

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

 

Listeners and staff to terminated executive: just leave!

exit“The Pacifica Radio network is as fragile as it is important — it cannot afford this protracted disruption,” reads a petition launched by the network’s listeners and staff, addressed to terminated executive Summer Reese, who has barricaded herself in the national office next door to KPFA with her mother and a handful of supporters.

“Please respect the decision by the majority of the elected Pacifica National Board, stop blocking elected board members’ access to financial records, leave Pacifica’s offices peacefully, and help make Pacifica’s leadership transition a smooth one,” the petition continues.

Early signatories include former Pacifica National Affairs correspondent Larry Bensky, long-time community activist Ying Lee, KPFA’s UpFront co-host Brian Edwards-Tiekert, and former Pacifica board chair Sherry Gendelman, who called Reese’s actions a “breach of trust of the listeners.” | JOIN THEM BY SIGNING HERE (and please circulate to your lists)

Since Reese broke into Pacifica Offices with bolt cutters on March 17, four days after being terminated, newly-elected Pacifica National Board chair Margy Wilkinson has responded with restraint — attempting to meet, and asking that she vacate the office and that all keys, codes, digital equipment and cell phone be returned. Wilkinson is a former union negotiator and long-time community activist in Berkeley.

Pacifica staff attempt to shred documents, attract police attention

shredder2 shredderMedia were drawn to the scene this past Monday, after an industrial shredding van pulled up outside the Pacifica office and KPFA’s workers began to ask questions, according to the SF Weekly.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that a Berkeley police officer stopped to investigate the scene after a Reese supporter began yelling at observers on the sidewalk.

“When the van driver for the shredding service emerged with Pacifica’s office manager,” said Pacifica chair Margy Wilkinson, “I asked her for a list of the items to be shredded, as required by Pacifica policy, and even offered to make such a list myself if it would help.”

The request for the shredding equipment was made March 21, five days into the illegal lock-out. Wilkinson had already asked staff to refrain from destroying any records, notes the SF Weekly. In her short time on the job, Wilkinson has discovered many large unpaid bills that were not previously reported to the national board or the public. Pacifica’s documents were returned to the office.

“Who knows what mischief Reese and her supporters are up to in the Pacifica National Office?” said volunteer KPFA music programmer Tim Lynch. “They are denying entry to elected national board members, which is strictly forbidden by the California Corporations Code.”

Not the attention Pacifica needs  

Reuters confirms that Reese was fired by the Pacifica National Board on March 13 by a vote of 11 to 7.  The board has declined to comment on the matter, citing employment confidentiality concerns, but PNB chair Wilkinson told Reuters, “I think [Reese’s] response since she has been terminated totally validates the decision to terminate her,” adding that the board “took an action that was appropriate and necessary.” Wilkinson said the board was carefully considering legal options, and met tonight to consider how to move forward.

Coverage by Oakland’s KTVU shows very few people in Pacifica’s offices. “You’re going to crush my arm! Don’t break my arm!” exclaims KTVU reporter Patti Lee to Reese’s mother as she tries to enter the almost-empty office through a heavily fortified door for an interview.

Reese’s action, sadly, has become an example for a national employment law firm’s blog, which cited her misconduct to illustrate what can go wrong when firing employees.

Meanwhile, Reese continues to send out a thick daily stream of completely fabricated “information” about the situation. The latest:  her claim that water was turned off in the Pacifica office, when in reality it was an outage related to utility work.

Feel free to contact SaveKPFA if you have questions and we’ll clear up what we can. And please, don’t forget to SIGN THE PETITION demanding that Reese leave.