A quiet coup has taken place at Pacifica, and the results are disastrous. The National Board has failed to carry out its obligations to have elections in a timely manner. Their negligence has led to board members holding seats past the expiration of their terms. One faction now controls the local board at KPFK and the National Board. They are in the process of changing the fundamental nature of our station and the Pacifica network. It is on the brink of bankruptcy.
Last year, the board majority created and approved a budget for KPFK with a half a million dollar deficit, despite demonstrable proof it was a bad budget. Now at the end of the fiscal year, KPFK, indeed, has at least a half a million dollar deficit. The same majority looked the other way—until it was finally discovered there was no general ledger being kept for a year. Expenses were not monitored and there were hundreds of thousands of dollars of unapproved and unbudgeted expenses. There has been no permanent qualified business manager at KPFK for more than a year and a half—as long as this board majority has been in power. This is why on air fund drive days have exploded past the point of reasonable return. There are continuing pleas for your money while they are unable to send out the premiums they have promised you in return.
They have enacted a “Shock Doctrine” maneuver: creating a financial crisis of their own making and then offering their own solution. The first thing they did is break the SAG-AFTRA union contract by cutting salaries 50% with less than two weeks warning while not cutting their job responsibilities for running a radio station. Long-time employees have been terminated for no reason and some of your favorite programmers have had their programs cut (even when they were willing to work 100% for 50% pay). While these new replacement programs may or may not be worthwhile, breaking a union contract is not the way to change programming. The staff at KPFK are devastated and totally demoralized, not only by the firings and pay cuts but by the attitude and actions of management and the board majority. Three music programmers, Betto Arcos, Derek Rath and Yatrika Shai-Rais, recently quit on air and here is their public and principled statement.
Two years in a row, the board majority has failed to provide timely audits to the State of California. The FY 2014 audit is now almost four months late. This not only puts Pacifica’s non-profit status in jeopardy, but this board majority has forfeited $2 million in Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds because of the lateness. The books are still in such disarray the 2014 audit cannot start and on top of that FY2015’s audit should be starting now. The national board chair and current interim Executive Director and KPFK majority leader, Lydia Brazon, is vague about Pacifica’s ability to pay the auditor for past bills or even what has already been paid to the auditors. There goes another $1 million from the CPB.
Why? Secret Plot Uncovered to Hijack Pacifica’s Broadcast Licenses & Assets!
A private “shadow” corporation was recently uncovered as a method to privatize Pacifica for the benefit of a few rather than keep it as a public benefit for the many. It appears the Shock Doctrine approach to the finances is not an accident, a mere “factional” dispute—but rather a plan by some of the board majority to gain control of the licenses and assets of the Pacifica Foundation.
In 2013, two of Brazon’s board majority allies from the Berkeley Pacifica station (KPFA)—former National Board member Dan Siegel, now Pacifica’s attorney, and current National Board member, Margy Wilkinson, former Chair of the Board and Interim Executive Director—secretly set up a non-profit corporation named “KPFA Foundation” with the California Secretary of State. This was kept totally secret from other National Board members, Pacifica’s Executive Director, Local Station Board members and listeners.
This shadow corporation, in addition to usurping without permission Pacifica’s trademarked “KPFA” call letters, contains the same articles of incorporation and Mission Statement as the Pacifica Foundation. When pressed for an explanation, Siegel admitted that the purpose of his shadow corporation was to acquire the licenses and assets of Pacifica (estimated to be worth more than $100 million) in case it became bankrupt and/or was taken over by creditors or the government. This is ominous, indeed, because Siegel has previously declared his desire to break up the Pacifica Foundation.
This constitutes a severe conflict of interest and ethical violation by Siegel and Wilkinson, perhaps even rising to the level of fraud or criminal behavior. After all, how can Siegel, as Pacifica’s attorney, be expected to act for the benefit of Pacifica when his stated goal is to destroy Pacifica for the benefit of his secret “KPFA Foundation”? He is also advising KPFK’s GM, who was appointed by Wilkinson on her last day as interim ED, in her attack on the KPFK SAG-AFTRA union staff.
Because of the board majority’s leadership and financial mismanagement, Pacifica is now on the brink of bankruptcy putting this “KPFA Foundation” in a perfect position to grab the radio licenses away from Pacifica thereby putting these same people in control of OUR radio station. PLEASE DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN! We need new leadership at KPFK.
How Did the Coup Take Place?
According to its bylaws, Pacifica is supposed to have elections two out of every three years. But they haven’t. Thus the terms of more than half of the people sitting on the National Board have expired. KPFK hasn’t had an election since 2010 and everyone on this local board is illegitimately seated. Due to attrition, alternates are seated who were never elected. By failing to hold elections, members of the board de facto have extended their own terms in office keeping themselves in control of Pacifica.
What Can Be Done?
The most direct and immediate action you can take right now is you can vote in this election for new board members. This election has already been delayed by the board majority and possibly only the threat of legal action forced them to move forward with it. If you are a member of KPFK, which means you have donated a minimum of $25 in the last year, you should receive a ballot to vote for a new and competent board.
As a KPFK member, you will shortly receive a ballot to elect members to the KPFK Local Station Board (LSB). This board not only sets policy for KPFK (and can initiate the hiring or firing of its General Manager); it also selects four of its members to sit on the National Board.
This election can change the board majority, and enable a new board to block any plan to hijack Pacifica’s licenses.
The future of KPFK and of the Pacifica network depends upon this election. This election is dependent upon you voting for candidates to become the new majority. Help Pacifica to remain intact and please vote: For more information on what can be done, the election and candidates to vote for click here now.
“The way to change institutions is to change the people in positions of influence within them.”—Yves Smith