600+ KPFA listeners tell Pacifica: quit stalling on recall vote

As of early December, over 600 listeners have signed a petition demanding that the Pacifica National Board immediately delegate responsibility for running the pending recall election on KPFA board member and Pacifica treasurer Tracy Rosenberg to a neutral third party and have the election conducted promptly. On November 1, KPFA management certified that listener-members had submitted more than enough valid signatures for the vote to proceed.

Many who signed the petition added comments. “Pacifica, stop stalling,” wrote  Amy Smith, “KPFA’s listeners want a fair vote!”  The election “must be in the hands of a neutral third party,” wrote Mary B. Skinner, because “current management has clearly shown it is incapable of such trust.”  In addition, fourteen members of KPFA’s Local Station Board have signed a letter urging impartial oversight of the vote. | READ PETITION COMMENTS | READ BOARDMEMBERS’ LETTER

Under Pacifica’s own policy, ballots must go out within 60 days of the certification, and are due back within 35 days after mailing. This puts the balloting period in December and January. So far, there’s been no word from Pacifica on what it will do. SaveKPFA supporters suspect that Pacifica may time the ballots for the holiday season, when they expect attention to be lowest. In fact, the Pacifica National Board decided to move its discussion of the recall into closed session — a clear violation of the open meeting rules in Pacifica’s bylaws.

Rosenberg allies try to squelch elections
Faced with SaveKPFA‘s successful recall petition, some members of Pacifica National Board seem to be thinking that listener participation isn’t such a great thing after all. By-laws amendments drafted by Rosenberg’s allies that are due to be voted on in December would raise the number of signatures needed for a recall from 2% to 10% of the membership, dramatically restrict the time in which signatures can be gathered, and force members filing a petition to bear all costs of the vote.

Donate, endorse to help SaveKPFA get the word out
Given these obviously undemocratic maneuvers, SaveKPFA is concerned that Pacifica may attempt to delay the recall vote indefinitely. If so, we’ll have to go to court to get Pacifica to allow KPFA’s listeners to have their say. To cover potential legal fees — and campaign costs once Pacifica does get a ballot out — we’ve set up an online account for SaveKPFA where you can give a donation of any size. “SaveKPFA is an all-volunteer organization,” said treasurer John Van Eyck. “We appreciate any support you can give for legal costs or election mailings, and we also strongly encourage you to donate to KPFA as well.”

If you’d like to be listed on SaveKPFA materials as endorsing the recall, please email us with your name and how you’d like to identified.

More mismanagement at Pacifica
Continuing developments confirm that the Pacifica National regime for which Rosenberg serves as treasurer is disastrous. As reported earlier this month, KPFA’s union has discovered Pacifica diverted workers’ retirement plan contributions for months. As KPFAWorker reports, while Pacifica claims it has restored the money it took out of workers’ accounts, it “still has not notified affected employees, apologized to them, nor made them whole by paying them interest.”

We now have some indication of where the money’s been going. Starting in July, Pacifica covered the payroll and benefits for WBAI in New York — over $130,000 per month. Publicly, Pacifica had been bragging that WBAI was experiencing a “turnaround” under the management that the network’s executive director, Arlene Engelhardt, installed without the approval of WBAI’s staff or local board.

Management at WPFW in Washington, DC is also on the ropes. Washington’s City Paper reports that more than 80 staff members there have signed a letter of no confidence in their manager, accusing him of lengthening fund drives, imposing steep austerity measures that affect union workers but not managers, and holding such disregard for input from his own staff that he hasn’t called a meeting in 8 months.

Art by Bob Baldock for the film KPFA on the Air

KPFA’s awesome Occupy coverage
As the Occupy movement has erupted, KPFA’s coverage has been stellar, with breaking news updates from protests, live broadcasts, and interviews that bring in-depth analysis to the movement.

Here are just a few recent highlights: Mitch Jeserich‘s anchoring of a live broadcast of former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich addressing a crowd of 10,000 on Sproul Plaza; comprehensive coverage of protests from the Pacifica Evening News; KPFA news anchor John Hamilton‘s report for Democracy Now on the police violence at Occupy Cal; and a fascinating interview on Letters and Politics about the most historic occupation in U.S. politics — the Bonus Army encampment in Washington during the Great Depression.

A big thank you to behind-the-scenes technical staff, like Antonio Ortiz, Frank Sterling, and Dev Ross, who’ve gone above and beyond to get live broadcasts on the air. Thanks to everyone at KPFA — from board ops and engineers, to reporters and music programmers — who’ve participated in this important coverage.

KPFA board member makes news
activist Dan Siegel, who serves on both the KPFA and Pacifica boards, made national headlines when he very publicly resigned as an unpaid advisor to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan because of her decision to forcibly remove the encampment in downtown Oakland. He was interviewed on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show.  (Believe it or not, Pacifica is still spending listeners’ money fighting in court to kick Siegel off the national board.) 

Local board discusses programming, budget
KPFA’s Local Station Board met November 19, and among other things, had a lively discussion about KPFA’s programming.  “We need to talk to a wider audience,” said SaveKPFA-affiliated board member and journalism professor Conn Hallinan. KPFA needs to reach people “who don’t have the same politics as we have,” he said, adding, “for that, we need to be good.” Programming discussed in part 3 of the meeting. | LISTEN to 3 minute clip, or the entire meeting: part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4

Support the KPFA Crafts Fair
KPFA’s biggest fundraiser of the year is coming up: the annual KPFA Crafts Fair on December 10 and 11. It’s an amazing event full of artwork, music, and an opportunity to do your holiday shopping in a way that supports local artisans. All proceeds stay with KPFA — Pacifica doesn’t take a cut of event revenue. Check out the Craft Fair’s webpage, or like its Facebook page. See you there!

KPFA workers uncover retirement shortfalls, endorse Occupy Oakland strike

KPFA's Sasha Lilley (left) & Mitch Jeserich (right) broadcasting from Occupy Oakland

Union workers at KPFA say that Pacifica has been shorting their retirement accounts, in violation of federal law. KPFAWorker.org reports that when employees got their quarterly statements from account provider ING, “they noticed that Pacifica had taken money out of their paychecks but had not put the money into their pensions during half of the weeks recorded.”

After two KPFA union members investigated and obtained documents about Pacifica’s payments (as is their right under the federal law), they received “terse” emails from both interim KPFA general manager Andrew Phillips and Pacifica’s executive director Arlene Engelhardt threatening legal action if they shared the information.

Union rep Christina Huggins of CWA Local 9415 stepped in. After receiving no response to her queries from either Engelhardt or Pacifica’s CFO Lavarn Williams, Huggins wrote this letter to the Pacifica National Board, to whom both Engelhardt and Williams report. “This is a form of wage theft, and it is a very serious matter,” Huggins wrote.  “The scope of this problem is large: We have seen this pattern for every employee whose records we have been able to check,” she wrote, adding that similar problems were identified as far back as a year and a half. “I’m writing to you as fiduciaries of the Pacifica Foundation,” Huggins continued, “because what we are dealing with is looking less like an error and more like a pattern: Missing payments, lack of transparency, hostility to employees who ask financial questions, unwillingness to release basic financial documents. These are classic warning signs of financial mismanagement and/or internal fraud.”

Engelhardt eventually responded, admitting the payments were overdue but saying they had finally been made. “They’ve not paid for lost interest, nor have they notified all the affected workers,” one KPFA worker told us.

Financial transparency lacking at Pacifica
In the wake of the retirement fund blowup, SaveKPFA reps have been pressing Pacifica management for financial transparency. Pacifica National Board members Dan Siegel, Andrea Turner and Laura Prives (who serve on the KPFA local board as well), have exercised their right to have their agents (KPFA treasurer Barbara Whipperman, and Brian Edwards-Tiekert, a former KPFA treasurer) inspect Pacifica’s books.

So far, they report that Pacifica management has been less than forthcoming — insisting all document requests be submitted in writing, unilaterally canceling scheduled inspections, and paying an attorney to write them a threatening letter.

Pacifica to put KPFA’s money in B of A?
While the Occupy Wall Street protests have inspired record numbers of people to move their money out of corporate mega-banks, Pacifica management is trying to move its stations’ money in.

Pacifica’s chief financial officer LaVarn Williams is pressuring KPFA and the other stations Pacifica owns, to move their business to Bank of America. (KPFA’s business manager has solicited a proposal from a local bank that would cost $20,000 per year less in fees).

Meanwhile, KPFA’s union staff passed a resolution in support of Occupy Oakland‘s Nov. 2 general strike, and the station’s journalists joined the movement on the streets to do extensive live coverage of the actions.

KPFA listeners deliver petitions demanding recall vote

Listeners Sharon Maldonado, Kim Waldron, Ying Lee & Barrie Mason (l to r) delivering petitions.

A delegation of listeners delivered a huge stack of petitions containing signatures of over 800 KPFA members during the September 10 meeting of the station’s elected Local Station Board. | KPFA News coverage (audio mp3) | Public comment (7 min audio clip)

Listeners are upset with the loss of local control at KPFA Radio 94.1 FM in Berkeley. The Pacifica network, which owns KPFA’s license, has made controversial changes to programming, including canceling the popular Morning Show at 7-9 AM, severely affecting fundraising during the station’s morning drive time. The petitions demand a vote among KPFA listener-members on the question of recalling board member Tracy Rosenberg, who has been a key ally of Pacifica’s heavy-handed management of KPFA.

“We fought — and won — a similar battle for KPFA back in 1999 when Pacifica tried to take over our station,” recalls listener-activist Barrie Mason. “Tracy Rosenberg has consistently used unethical means to undermine local control,” she added. “Removing her is the first step in saving KPFA.”

“Thousands of listeners have written, called and picketed at KPFA in recent months, demanding a return of the Morning Show and an end to Pacifica’s meddling in the station’s autonomy, but the network’s management refuses to listen,” said KPFA local board member Pamela Drake.

The charges against Rosenberg, who sits on both KPFA’s local board and Pacifica’s national board, include drawing up a secret layoff list that was used to cancel the Morning Show, pressuring Pacifica management to mount legal challenges to seating her opponents on the board (all of which were later overturned in the courts), and falsely obtaining and using KPFA listener-subscribers’ personal emails.

Local station management must review the petitions to insure that the signatures are those of actual KPFA members (people who have given at least $25 in the last year). The Pacifica bylaws simply state that a recall election will be triggered by petitions from 2% of the station’s members — in this case, less than 400 valid signatures are needed.

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].

See also: No confidence in Pacifica-appointed manager, says local board.