A lawsuit demanding over $800,000 in “damages” from four KPFA listeners who tried to raise money for KPFA has been dropped, with its initiator agreeing to pay all costs for SaveKPFA‘s legal defense team.
The SLAPP suit had been filed against the Morning Show 4 — elected KPFA board members Margy Wilkinson, Dan Siegel, Mal Burnstein and Conn Hallinan — who led a 2011 SaveKPFA campaign that collected over $60,000 in pledges to restore the KPFA Morning Show, after Pacifica claimed it had cancelled the show for financial reasons.
Hundreds of listeners made financial pledges in that campaign, but Pacifica refused to accept them. Shortly thereafter, KPFA partisan Daniel Borgstrom and his lawyer, former LSB rep Richard Phelps, slapped the four SaveKPFA board members with a lawsuit demanding $800,000 in “damages” for the fundraising activity, which they claimed was “disloyal” to Pacifica.
While Pacifica formally took no position on the suit, national board members such as treasurer Tracy Rosenberg had been publicly proclaiming the existence of the lawsuit as a “win” for her side. In January 2013, she and her allies on the PNB even passed an Orwellian anti-dissent “loyalty” measure targeting the SaveKPFA‘s activists, threatening to boot them from the board should Borgstrom win his lawsuit. Outraged listeners and staff wrote to the PNB when the measure was introduced earlier this year (a sampling of the letters is here.)
Thanks for your support, and congratulations to everyone who has worked to support KPFA through these difficult times! Please renew that support by making your pledge to KPFA during this week’s fund drive.
SIGN THE PETITION HERE In our last newsletter we pointed out that, when Tracy Rosenberg used a lawsuit to scuttle the count of recall ballots, her own court filings argued that it would cost KPFA very little money to fix the recall’s procedural problems by sending out a new ballot in the same envelope as the general election ballots due to be mailed on November 6.
Here’s what Rosenberg’s legal filing says: “It is understood that that PACIFICA has incurred expenses in conducting the present recall….However, the cost to Pacifica of a new election can be mitigated since it is about to begin a general election, and it is possible that a recall election can be conducted in tandem therewith, thereby avoiding some duplication in cost.”
We also predicted that, having won an injunction from the court, Rosenberg would make a 180-degree turn and try to prevent KPFA from doing just that — conducting a quick, cheap re-vote by stuffing an extra piece of paper in each ballot package.
True to form, Rosenberg delivered, arguing during the last meeting of KPFA’s Local Station Board that it would be too expensive to include a re-done recall ballot on November 6. (You can listen to the October 6 meeting here: part a, part b, part c, part d, part e. The recall discussion occurs in part d.) And she wonders why KPFA listeners want her out of Pacifica?
It’s time for listeners to once again speak up.TAKE A MOMENT TO SIGNTHIS PETITION, asking Pacifica’s election supervisors and national board allow all KPFA listeners to have a vote on the recall as part of this fall’s general election.
And after you’ve done that, please help us spread the word by forwarding this newsletter to friends who may be KPFA listeners. Thank you!
An Alameda County judge has granted Pacifica treasurer Tracy Rosenberg‘s request to block any counting of the thousands of ballots in the recall election against her cast by KPFA members this summer.
The election was triggered after more than 800 KPFA listeners who signed petitions seeking Rosenberg’s removal from the Pacifica National Board over her role in killing the Morning Show, misappropriating members’ email addresses, and other abuses. At the time, the Morning Show was the most listened-to program produced at KPFA, and the station’s biggest fundraiser.
Rosenberg delays vote, then sues over delay
Shortly before the ballot count was to take place, Rosenberg filed suit against Pacifica, whose national office she effectively ran by proxy during the tenure of the soon-to-depart executive director Arlene Engelhardt. Rosenberg’s suit said there was an illegal delay between the cutoff date for voting eligibility and the date ballots actually hit the mail.
Pacifica’s filings did not dispute the fact that its conduct of the recall election against her had broken the law — instead, it argued that Rosenberg used her position on the Pacifica National Board to contribute to the delay of sending out recall ballots, and that she knew about the deadlines being used for the election, but waited until the last possible moment to file suit over them.
Pacifica offered to correct its violation by sending out additional ballots to people who would have been eligible to vote if not for the early cutoff — but Rosenberg’s attorney rejected that proposal. That’s not the conduct of someone who wants to fix an election — it’s the conduct of someone who fears she’s lost the vote, and wants to keep it from being counted.
The judge’s decision does not bar Pacifica from sending out new recall ballots, as long as it uses a new eligibility date. Rosenberg’s own court filings suggested Pacifica could save money by mailing out new ballots in the same package as the general election mailing set to go out in early November. Now that the path is actually cleared to do so, look for Rosenberg to reverse course and try to block or delay the recall, again.
Meanwhile, Rosenberg is currently using her position as Pacifica’s treasurer to try to impose harsh austerity on KPFA. She scuttled a no-cuts budget drafted by KPFA’s local management, and approved by KPFA’s elected Local Station Board (this was after she and her allies walked out of the local board meeting scheduled to discuss the budget.) Despite the fact that KPFA’s currently running a surplus, Rosenberg led the charge to impose line-by-line cuts, including staff cuts, on KPFA. Her legal challenges may have bought her enough time to see that process through to whatever end she has in mind. Rosenberg and her allies have renamed their “Independents for Community Radio” slate as “United for Community Radio” for the 2012 KPFA elections.
The big picture: democracy when?
Rosenberg’s success at delaying her own recall election calls into question the very foundations of Pacifica’s democratic reforms. The recall provisions currently in Pacifica’s bylaws were created as a check on unaccountable boards run amok — like the board that, in 1999, locked out KPFA’s staff and boarded up its studios.
Many KPFA listeners felt similarly betrayed when Rosenberg attacked KPFA’s union, orchestrated the purge of its biggest fundraiser, and hand-picked her own political allies to fill the Morning Show‘s timeslot. But even after KPFA’s listeners gathered more than double the number of signatures needed to trigger a recall, Rosenberg, and Pacifica, have delayed the election for close to a year. Stay tuned for the next step, which we hope to announce soon.