Between the Minutes

Notes from KPFA's board Mtg of March 24, 2007 at Café de la Paz
by Daniel Borgström

KPFA's board meeting of March 24th was mostly devoted to special presentations by HR Director Yolanda Thomas and Pacifica Legal Counsel Dan Siegel. Q&A sessions followed, during which two previously unresolved legal questions were brought up for discussion: The first related to the disciplining of a board member who had purchased an airline ticket at Pacifica expense without authorization. The second was the legality of a directive issued by KPFA's IPD (Interim Program Director) Sasha Lilley.

Yolanda Thomas made her presentation first, explaining her duties as HR Director, which include assisting in the hirings of general manager and program director, as well as the handling of other personnel issues. There were questions and comments from several LSB members, including two significant matters brought up by Sasha Futran and Noelle Hanrahan.

Sasha Futran brought up a confidentiality issue: someone had posted her résumé on a public website last fall in an attempt to discredit her during the LSB election. That could only have been done by someone with access to KPFA/Pacifica records, and the act constituted a violation of confidentiality. Sasha was elected in spite of the attack.

Noelle Hanrahan told about her lawsuit against KPFA, which she said cost the station around $450 thousand, including $258 thousand for her and her lawyer. The suit had been her only option, she said, because of the dysfunctionality of a management that was unable to deal with such problems. KPFA/Pacifica needs a more appropriate policy to handle matters like this, Noelle emphasized. Otherwise, costly legal actions were likely to happen again, and cost the station more money in lawsuits.

After the HR Director's presentation, Pacifica Legal Counsel Dan Siegel spoke about the duties and limitations of the LSB. He explained various issues such as conflict of interest as it might relate to board members.

During Q&A, Attorney Siegel was asked general questions about disciplining LSB members. Many of the questions concerned the matter of confidentiality, or the lack of it, in such a process. Should it be dealt with in closed session, and should names and facts be released to the listener public?

Questions, comments and assertions flew back and forth across the room. Some said it was a personnel issue, therefore confidential, so the case should be resolved in closed session. Others took a different view, maintaining that board members are NOT employees. LSB member Richard Phelps pointed out that Pacifica Bylaw Article 6, Section 7 stipulates that all board meetings are open to the listeners except for those sessions dealing with items on a specified list, and board member discipline is not on that list.

"We're a political body," said board member Phelps. "We stand for election. Therefore it's an issue of transparency."

This discussion on discipline referred to a matter which had come to light during the previous meeting, concerning the purchase of an airline ticket by a board member at Pacifica expense. Of course neither the offense nor the offender was named at this time. The ticket purchaser sat knitting a shawl, but asked no questions. The 30 days allowed to her by the bylaws to prepare her response has now expired, and the matter is expected to come up on Saturday, April 28th. There will probably also be a struggle over whether or not to hide the process in executive session.

Sasha Lilley is KPFA's Interim Program Director, and on March 16th she issued a directive to programmers, warning them NOT to "actively urge listeners to attend events over KPFA's airwaves because of issues of liability." However, there seemed to be no liability issue. Then someone (on Indybay, where it was discussed in detail) said it was in order to comply with FCC rules. But the FCC rules didn't seem to apply either.

It was LSB member Henry Norr who raised this question, asking Attorney Dan Siegel if there were any FCC regulation which prohibited programmers from encouraging listeners to attend demonstrations. Siegel replied that no such law exists.

Almost everyone on the board had some question or comment on the directive. It became the hot topic of the afternoon, and Counsel Siegel demolished any pretense of logic behind the IPD's directive.

Siegel explained that KPFA is a non-profit organization, a "501 C 3". It cannot endorse candidates. However, its very purpose as an organization is to promote peace. That's what KPFA exists for.

LSB member Bonnie Simmons informed Siegel that KPFA had been sued by someone who was injured at a demonstration.

"When was that?" Dan Siegel wanted to know, and asked for the specifics. But nobody was able to present any case where KPFA or any other station was sued just for urging attendance at a peace rally.

"Sounds like urban legend," concluded Attorney Siegel.

During all of this, Sasha Lilley sat in the back of the room, a couple of rows behind me. She certainly must've heard everything that was said. Nevertheless, instead of withdrawing her ill-starred directive, she defended it during the management report to the listeners on KPFA on April 2nd, after all the legal opinions were in. She has also written an article in the Berkeley Daily Planet to defend it.

Three experienced lawyers have taken her directive apart, demolishing it in detail. These attorneys are: the above Dan Siegel, Pacifica Legal Counsel, Richard Phelps, LSB member and John Crigler, Pacifica's FCC Counsel.

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