civil disobedience shuts down a PNB mtg
How civil disobedience shut down last Thursday's (Jan 28, 2016) Pacifica National Board meeting
A letter from Steve Brown
January 31, 2016
Dear Pacifica Supporter –
I know that most listeners to our stations are not interested in the factional warfare that has been crippling Pacifica for the past three years. I don’t blame those listeners. Nevertheless, for those few who are concerned, I feel responsible for reporting what the fighting is about, how it harms the foundation, and what steps are being taken to stop it. However, I fully understand the decision of those who decide to stop reading at this point.
Anyway, here is what has been occurring.
There is a faction in Pacifica run by a California lawyer named Dan Siegel (whose faction arranged his illegitimate hiring as Pacifica’s lawyer over the protest of numerous Board members). Among the Siegel faction’s supporters are Board Member Margy Wilkinson, Board Member Lydia Brazon, and 8 other Board Members whose names are not significant, although the damage they have done to Pacifica is quite significant.
How the Siegel faction seized illegitimate control of the Pacifica Board
This faction is called “JUC” (Justice and Unity) at WBAI, and “Save KPFA” at KPFA. At the other stations it goes by other names. Three years ago, this faction seized control of the Pacifica’s Chair and the Board – not by democratically electing its members – but by improperly canceling the regularly scheduled Pacifica elections, so that their members would not run the risk of being defeated in those elections, and could thereby illegitimately extend their terms of office. This was bad news for Pacifica, because the desire of this faction (openly stated by Siegel) is to dismember the Pacifica network by selling off its “undesirable stations” – i.e., any stations but their own – and divvying up the sale proceeds among their own stations.
How Siegel faction members plan to dismember Pacifica and divide
up the pieces (worth over $100 million) among themselves
Siegel and his partner, Board Member Margy Wilkinson, even went so far as to create, approximately two years ago, a secret “shadow” corporation under their control (discovered only by accident, barely four months ago, by Pacifica’s secretary) whose purpose, Siegel admitted when pressed, was to acquire the licenses and assets of Pacifica’s stations, if the foundation went into bankruptcy (a bankruptcy, it now appears clear, that they had long been trying to engineer through their positions on the Board, and Siegel’s position as Pacifica’s attorney). The assets and licenses of the foundation that they intended to acquire are estimated to be worth in excess of $100 million. As Pacifica Board members and fiduciaries, Siegel and Wilkinson were legally obligated to inform the Board -- not only that their secret corporation existed -- but also how they totally controlled it, what its destructive purpose was, and how its existence created a highly illicit conflict of interest (i.e., their shadow corporation succeeded only if Pacifica failed). But, of course, they did not reveal any of that to the Board.
Siegel was doubly obligated— as Pacifica’s attorney -- to make his control of this secret corporation (and the severe conflict of interest it entailed) known to the Board. His failure to do so, along with numerous other allegations of serious professional misconduct, are currently the subject of an investigation by the California Bar Association and the California Attorney General. (We are keeping our fingers crossed.)
If you have the desire – and patience -- to review the history of Siegel’s blatant violations of both California law and Pacifica’s bylaws, and the – literally -- millions of dollars he has cost Pacifica, you can click here.
What you will find at that web address
What you will find at that site is my recent email to the Pacifica National Board, and to the rest of Pacifica management, exposing Siegel’s pattern of misconduct and reckless disregard of the law, stretching over numerous years, which have cost Pacifica millions of dollars in fines and penalties. I did this, in exasperation and anger, after reading Siegel’s recent public email in which he paints himself as a hero of Pacifica, when in fact he bears enormous responsibility for the current pathetic state of Pacifica’s finances and public reputation.
Siegel evidently believed that no one would take the considerable time and effort required to dig up the documents and court records required to shine a light on the muddy footprints he has left all over Pacifica. But I did. I took two days off my schedule and, with the help of friends, did indeed dig up all those documents and court records. So at that site, you should first open my summarizing email: “Dan Siegel slips on his own banana peel.” It lists, in easily readable form:
(a) Siegel’s specific acts of professional misconduct,
(b) his botched handling of numerous Pacifica lawsuits (although he may have mishandled these cases deliberately),
(c) his outright violations of Pacifica’s bylaws and the laws of California, and
(d) how much money each of the above has cost Pacifica in dollars and cents (the total is in the millions). At that same site will also be found the attachments (court documents, legal testimony, foundation reports, etc.) that support the charges in my email.
It is not a pretty picture. But all of the documents and records at that website are now being used by the California Bar Association and the California Attorney General in their ongoing investigation of Siegel’s misconduct in these and other affairs.
Unfortunately – in the same way that crooked bankers and corporate executives manage to keep their jobs (and get bonuses) even after their firms have been fined billions of dollars for illegal actions that they themselves have committed -- Siegel and his faction still retain control of the Pacifica Board of Directors. And they used their control in a spectacularly brazen way at last Thursday’s (1/28/16) phone meeting of the Board.
What the Siegel faction did at last Thursday’s National Board Meeting
What they did was refuse to seat WBAI’s four newly elected Board members, in a flagrant violation of the bylaws. Of course, their motive was understandable, since they knew that as soon as those new members were seated, their first order of business would be to throw them out. So they simply voted to disenfranchise WBAI’s four newly elected directors, depriving WBAI and its listeners any representation on the Board. Although WBAI’s four new Board members protested, the Chair (Tony Norman), a member of the Siegel faction, simply ruled the protests out of order.
That was the last straw – enter Mozart!
At that point, the violations of the bylaws – and therefore the violation of the rights of Pacifica’s listeners – had become so blatant and intolerable that one Board Member on the call [who will, ahem, remain unnamed] felt compelled to commit an act of principled civil disobedience in order to shut down what had become an illegal meeting. To do this, the member began broadcasting Mozart through his phone, at its loudest setting, preventing the meeting from continuing.
The member’s Mozartian act of civil disobedience was applauded by the 8 non-faction Board Members, and by hundreds of Pacifica supporters listening on the internet, since this was a public meeting. (Some did text to say, however, that although they agreed with the civil disobedience, they disagreed with the musical selection.)
After an hour of Mozart, over which no one could be heard, the meeting was forced to adjourn. You can read a better account of the chaos than mine. As well as hear it on audio, at the readable and reliable (albeit sometimes feisty) blog, Pacifica in Exile.
As the Board Member who used Mozart to shut down the meeting later explained,
“Not to compare myself to Mario Savio, but his words still echo in my head:
‘There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!’
”The Board Chair and his faction had made it clear that ‘working within the rules’ was no longer an option, since the rules no longer existed. That was why I turned on the music. Allowing that meeting to continue would mean pretending that a coup d’etat had not taken place. So I turned on the music and turned off the meeting. The faction will do whatever it takes to maintain power, regardless of the 'rules’ or the bylaws, or good faith procedures. There seems to be no way to deal with them short of extracting them from Pacifica via the courts.”
And indeed, court actions are being brought against the rogue majority faction simultaneously in both in California and New York. In addition, a separate lawsuit against individual members of the faction – including but not limited to former Board Chair Lydia Brazon and former Executive Director Margy Wilkinson (Dan Siegel’s “partner-in-crime,” who colluded with him to form the secret corporation by which they intend to acquire Pacifica’s licenses after pushing it into bankruptcy) -- has already been filed in Federal Court by long-time Pacifica broadcaster Gary Null. His suit names Brazon and Wilkinson (and others) as defendants in connection with vast and ongoing criminal violations of federal Intellectual Piracy statutes and the FTC’s Mail Order Rule, as well as criminal fraud statutes that could involve the FTC, FBI, US Postal Service, Justice Department and Attorney General of California.
The fines (which could run into the millions) and jail terms (which begin at 5 years for first offenders) are applicable personally to each individual member of the board and/or management found guilty of participating in, abetting, or simply failing to exercise their authority to stop the illegal activities.
So it is possible that, one day soon, you may see the Siegel faction (and possibly Siegel himself) doing a “perp walk” down the streets of Los Angeles or San Francisco, in handcuffs, on the way to a federal holding pen. Which would be the first significant sign that Pacifica was firmly back on the path to financial health and administrative well being.
If you consider, for a moment, how the Republican majority has been able to cripple Congress for so many years, you will have some idea of the crippling effect of this lawless and self-serving faction on Pacifica. I don’t know how it will all turn out, but I will do my best to keep you and other Pacifica listeners posted – at least those who are interested.
Sorry I have not brought you happier news. I hope to do better soon.
Stephen M Brown
Director, Pacifica National Board
Member, WBAI Local Station Board
To subscribe to Steve Brown's email list, send an email to