The Pacifica Financial Crisis
by Richard Phelps
Recently WBAI management did not pay their rent for four months and received a Three Day Notice to pay or be subject to eviction. This was not promptly communicated to the financial or executive management of Pacifica. WBAI has been losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for several years and currently owes Pacifica over $1,000,000.00 in back central services contributions. Each station contributes 20% of its listener-generated revenue to run the Foundation. When one station isn’t making its contribution the results are that the Foundation is short on money or the other stations have to pay more. This several year problem at WBAI and the current economic downturn has caused serious financial problems for Pacifica. The current Pacifica National Board (PNB), elected in January, gives hope for the survival of Pacifica.
Why didn’t Pacifica correct this problem early on? There was collusion among some PNB members from various stations to allow WBAI to do what they wanted to do with no oversight or accountability to the Bylaws or the listener/subscribers. The major players in this collusion were from KPFA, WBAI and WPFW, with a vote or two from KPFK and KPFT and the affiliate Reps on the PNB.
The Local Station Board (LSB) majorities at KPFA and WBAI generally elected three PNB members that supported this collusion and WPFW, until recently, often sent four. There are 22 members of the PNB, four from each station and two Affiliate Representatives. An LSB majority can elect three of the four PNB members for their station. With ten votes from KPFA, WBAI and WPFW it only takes three votes from the ten from the other two stations and affiliate reps to have a majority to control the PNB and continue this collusion. Until this last January the Colluders had the majority for several years.
Who are the Colluders and why did they do this? Local tyrannical majorities wanted to run their stations without regard to the Bylaws and with no oversight from the Foundation. At KPFA the “KPFAForward” (2004) and “Concerned Listener” (CL) (2006 & 2007) slates represented the same management/staff faction and generally endorsed majorities that sent three PNB members who consistently voted to protect and continue the collusion. This group included William Walker, Sarv Randhawa, Rosalinda Palacios, Mary Berg, Sherry Gendelman, Bonnie Simmons and Andrea Turner. They consistently vote/voted with the Justice & Unity majority from WBAI and the WPFW majority. They generally sit together at the PNB meetings and are regularly seen privately caucusing together at lunch and before and after meetings sometimes, with GM Lemlem Rijio when in Berkeley.
Prior to this year’s PNB, Bob Lederer was the Justice & Unity leader on the PNB. I have attended many PNB meetings and listened to most of the others on line. During those meetings if KPFA Colluder PNB members were not sure how to vote they often passed if Bob Lederer hadn’t voted or passed. When he voted they would follow. If you don’t believe me go to the archives of the meetings and listen. Rosalinda Palacios (2006) was especially consistent with following Lederer’s votes.
Whenever there was a move to correct the problems at WBAI the KPFA Colluders always voted with the others to protect the LSB majority at WBAI. Patty Heffley, the minority PNB Rep from WBAI, made a motion to have the PNB order the WBAI LSB to do a performance review of the general manager (GM) and the program director. The Bylaws require these to be done annually. At WBAI they had never been done, despite complaints from the LSB minority. The PNB Colluder majority refused to order the WBAI LSB to follow the Bylaws. Many others complained about WBAI being out of control and losing money and the Colluder PNB majority did NOTHING as the red ink continued to flow.
At KPFA the CL slate and the Rijio/Lilley management work together to make sure they maintain a majority on the LSB to elect three PNB members from their group. One of their methods was to have no election information on the air when the ballots went out and at the same time the CL sent a slate mailer. After the first time this happened I wrote a motion on the PNB Election Committee requiring election information to be on the air during the election. It passed out of the election committee by a 10-2 vote. The Colluder majority on the PNB voted it down. When they finally ran some candidate information they ran 22 candidate statements in a row, always with Sherry Gendelman first! At the April 2009 PNB meeting in Berkeley the new non-Colluder PNB majority passed a motion requiring broad election coverage on the air.
The Colluder majority was consistently against transparency. The Bylaws and California law allow Directors, PNB members, the “absolute right” to inspect all documents and facilities at any reasonable time. For years the Colluders fought to stop or hinder Directors’ Inspections. When inspections were finally allowed due to potential lawsuits it was discovered that $65,000 worth of equipment had been sent to a WBAI former GM’s father’s house and was not accounted for. As recently as 2008 a Director was ordered out of WBAI in the middle of a lawful inspection without any justification. Who gave the order? Dan Siegel, interim Executive Director, hired by the Colluder majority.
So when you hear Brian Edwards-Tiekert, Sherry Gendelman, Bonnie Simmons, Conn or Matthew Hallinan, Warren Mar or any of the CL allies complain about KPFA money going to shore up WBAI, they and their allies are responsible for this crisis for trading fiscal responsibility for their power to ignore the Bylaws, transparency and accountability.
To save Pacifica we must vote out the CL Colluders in the next election so they will not be able to send three Colluders to the PNB to ignore the Bylaws and progressive principles in favor of uncontrolled tyranny of the local majorities. KPFA is a Commons that belong to all of us and it must be protected and preserved above the CL/Rijio group’s desire for unrestrained and unaccountable power.
Richard Phelps, former Chair, KPFA LSB
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UPDATE August 2010
The "Concerned Listeners" have appropriated the name "Save KPFA" -- a name belonging to the group of activists who fought for listener democracy during most of the 1990's. Their name "Save KPFA" is legendary, inappropriate for the "Concerned Listeners", a group whose purpose is diametrically opposite.
Save KPFA--hijacking a legendary name