The Split Between the Minutes
--with update from LSB of January 11, 2010
by Daniel Borgström
Yes, it's true, but it's not new. There was a split in KPFA's Listener Station Board (LSB). It happened 6 or 8 years ago, and that's the way it's been ever since. What is new is that where there used to be one board with two factions, last month we saw the emergence of two seemingly separate boards, each with one faction, apparently holding separate meetings. Only one of these boards has a quorum of 13 members, making it the legally constituted board, the other having no official status. Obviously this state of affairs could not last for long.
This situation came about on December 5, 2009, when the board met to seat newly elected members. About 55 people attended, including both new and old board members, as well as an audience of KPFA listeners and staff, most of them supporters of the ICR and Peoples Radio (PR) slates. The sticking point in this meeting was that the "CL'ers" (Concerned Listeners slate), the dominant faction of the old board, had lost its majority: 13 of the 24 seats on the board were now held by the "ICR" (Independents for Community Radio slate).*
Nevertheless, the CL'ers are the status quo faction, representing the management of KPFA. So despite losing the election, they were reluctant to accept their new minority status, and attempted to even things up, making it 12 to 12. Their plan was to ignore their now defunct status as the old board to attempt one last action.
Paralleling an incident in January 2009, in which they illegally replaced Noelle Hanrahan with John Van Eyck, the CL'ers charged Staff Rep Naji Ali with 3 unexcused absences, which is grounds for removal from the board. They hoped to replace him with one of their own, Mary Tilson.
The ICR people, including Listener Reps Tracy Rosenberg, Joe Wanzala, Chandra Hauptman, Sasha Futran and others, spoke up to counter the CL'ers, pointing out that Naji Ali had only 2 unexcused absences, not 3.
That went back and forth till the ICR people quoted a memo from Pacifica Counsel, Ricardo De Anza, that supported their position. But the CL'ers objected that they hadn't received the memo, though they shouldn't have needed a memo since the bylaws are clear--no business can be conducted without a quorum, including excusing or not excusing absent members, and there was no quorum at the October 17th meeting.
Staff Rep Brian Edwards-Tiekert called it an "ambush," and said, "It would be really nice if things like this did not happen."
"I'm sorry that was not forwarded on to the rest of the board, it should have been," Sasha Futran apologized, but added pointedly, "even though we didn't get the particulars of the budget." She was referring to the August meeting, where the CL'ers had presented the budget without giving ICR people time to study it, then used their majority to bulldoze it through. That budget incident was seen as a typical example of the CL'ers way of running the board.
The failure to forward the memo to the CL'ers didn't change the facts: the CL'ers attempt to replace Naji Ali was illegal. Since its term of office had expired, the old CL-dominated board could NOT conduct business of any sort. Its only remaining function was ceremonial, to seat the newly elected members and hand over all responsibilities to the new board--where the ICR would now be the majority.
But the CL'ers adamantly refused to budge, and the session devolved into a discussion on intricate points and arcane interpretations of Pacifica Bylaws, California Corporate Law, and Roberts Rules of Order.
The pre-meeting discussion dragged on, no resolution in sight. Some of the audience were taking notes, and Jim Curtis was videotaping the session. It was getting close to noon. The CL'ers had the meeting in gridlock, and, as it appeared that they were inclined to filibuster till they got their way, Tracy Rosenberg got to her feet and made a motion to adjourn and reconvene at a different location--at the West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library.
The next few minutes was a period of confusion. Some ICR people had left the room, others were getting to their feet, the CL'ers perhaps thought Tracy was bluffing until she spoke again, reiterating that the meeting would reconvene at the library, carefully giving them the complete address. And still the CL'ers talked on, while more ICR people left. "Agents provocateurs!" blurted out a CL'er as the room emptied. That was Andrea Turner, who is usually more reticent.
Audience members were also leaving. I glanced at the empty seats around me, then at Sasha Futran, the only ICR board member still in the room. I wasn't sure which side Sasha would be on. A month before this, she'd become alienated from her slate because of what she'd claimed to be a lack of support from some fellow ICR candidates; she'd even threatened to file a lawsuit. At this moment she was on her feet and speaking. "The motion is to go to a new location," Sasha told the CL'ers. "I apologize for leaving, but I must leave."
I followed the others out the door, joining them in the patio out in front of the building. Nobody had really left yet. They were standing around in groups talking. Virginia Browning stepped out to tell me she was staying to record what the CL'ers did; she went back inside. Jim Curtis also remained inside, videotaping.
Andrea Turner came out and asked ICR to return, offering something that sounded like a compromise, but in reality the CL'ers were still refusing to budge. Dan Siegel, a newly elected CL'er, was still out in the patio, talking.
"We need to go to our new meeting," people were saying. Notices were posted on both sides of the entrance door, announcing the address of the library. "Who needs a ride?" someone called out.
People arrived at the reconvened meeting in twos and threes. Finally, there were 13 board members present--the magic number for a quorum--and Tracy Rosenberg called the meeting to order. New members were seated, and roll was taken. Those present were: Joe Wanzala, Andrea Prichett, Akio Tanaka, Renee Yang Geesler, Sasha Futran, Chandra Hauptman, Henry Norr, Shahram Aghamir, Banafsheh Akhlaghi, Naji Ali, Sureya Sayadi, Anthony Fest, and Tracy Rosenberg. (Actually, there were 14, as Dan Siegel of the CL showed up about an hour later.)
Officers were elected, Sasha Futran becoming the new chair, with Anthony Fest as vice chair, Simon Pius (a financial professional, though not a board member) as treasurer, and Akio Tanaka as secretary. The agenda was approved, public comments heard, and business conducted. Jim Curtis was videotaping.
Naji Ali addressed the board, expressing his commitment to be present at future meetings, responding to complaints about his long sequence of excused but still undesirable absences. Over the years, his seat had been held by a series of no-show people from both sides. One was Eric Park, a CL supporter, who had actually quit the board, apparently informing his CL colleagues of his departure. But instead of passing that information on to the rest of the board and allow the seat go to an opponent, the CL'ers continued to present excuses for his absence, until after some months when the subterfuge was discovered.
Although the CL'ers used the absence issue opportunistically that morning, both sides see attendance as a serious matter. At most meetings at least 20 of the 24 KPFA board members are present.* This afternoon several ICR people spoke about this obligation.
The ICR also wanted the CL'ers to come and rejoin the LSB. "How can we reach out to them?" they asked, and held a discussion, inviting the audience to participate (the first time I've seen this happen). Joe Wanzala, Sasha Futran and Andrea Prichett were chosen to act as a committee of reconciliation. We'll see the results of their efforts at the January 11th public meeting of the LSB.
UPDATE: All but one board member met on January 11, 2010 and elected 4 delegates to the Pacifica National Board (PNB): Joe Wanzala (ICR), Shahram Aghamir (ICR), Tracy Rosenberg (ICR), and Andrea Turner (CL). An audience of some 54 KPFA listeners and staff attended the event. Many addressed the board during the public comments session, criticizing Station Manager Lemlem Rijio's grossly uneven handling of the cutbacks, which had in particular targeted FlashPoints. "How in the world is Lemlem still there?" demanded the last speaker, " Get to work and fire Lemlem! Do the job we elected you for!"
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* KFCF in Fresno also sends a member to the board who votes on most issues, though not on the choosing of the directors for the Pacifica National Board, (PNB). So for most purposes, KPFA's LSB has 25 members.
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
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for more information and updates please visit Support KPFA at www.supportkpfa.org