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"A Liar...A Cheater...Physically Abusive"

by Diana Barahona Wednesday, Oct. 02, 2002 at 4:27 AM

Many tried to warn Pacifica about KPFK's new General Manager, Eva Georgia, but nobody listened. The Pacifica Radio Network, with five stations and numerous affiliates, has seen enough trouble over the last three years. It was left with a .8 million debt and in a state of organizational chaos by a corrupt board of directors that was mercifully removed last December by a determined army of reformers and four lawsuits.

"A Liar...A Cheater...Physically Abusive"

Many tried to warn Pacifica about KPFK's new General Manager, Eva Georgia, but nobody listened

The Pacifica Radio Network, with five stations and numerous affiliates, has seen enough trouble over the last three years. It was left with a .8 million debt and in a state of organizational chaos by a corrupt board of directors that was mercifully removed last December by a determined army of reformers and four lawsuits.

KPFK 90.7 FM, L.A.'s beloved radical radio station, was not removed from the battle. In January, Interim Executive Director Dan Coughlin fired KPFK's General Manager Mark Schubb when he defied the new interim Board of Directors.

But after two successful fund drives, including a national fund drive to repair the KPFK transmitter, supporters of the station began to feel hopeful that the worst was over. A 13-member search committee consisting of staff, listeners and Pacifica board member David Fertig was formed to find a new general manager. They looked at nearly 50 applicants and chose three finalists, South African Eva Georgia and the managers of a community station in Moab, Utah, and a college station in San Jose. Coughlin made the final selection, based on the recommendation of the search committee, and put out a glowing press release about the new manager's role in setting up Radio Atlantis and Cape Talk in South Africa.

Then the trouble started.

A local activist sent Coughlin's press release to media outlets in the Cape Town Area. One of these was Bush Radio, the first community station in South Africa. Bush Radio's director, Zane Ibrahim, responded with a letter to Coughlin. In it, he took exception to the claims in the press release that Eva Georgia had helped set up the first community radio station–Atlantis was actually only the first licensed station. Ibrahim also mentioned that Cape Talk was a commercial station, set up by a white-owned media monopoly. He continues: "I cannot therefore allow our hard fought battles to be trivialised by a press release that reads like a movie script. Eva is a capable person and can stand her ground without the "Joan of Arc" nonesense. The struggle is far too real for us down here to allow your press release to go unchallenged."

Under pressure by local KPFK activists to investigate his new hire, Coughlin reluctantly started a reevaluation of Georgia's employment history, and learned some very alarming facts and allegations: that she had been fired under threat of criminal prosecution from Radio Atlantis for dishonesty; that there were complaints by Atlantis staff of physical and verbal abuse; that she had been fired from Cape Talk. A former Atlantis Radio employee, Jamilla Isaacs, made a formal complaint to the Station Board, in which she stated she was subjected to "physical and emotional torment":

"On numerous occasions I was subjected to the verbal abuse of the station manager, her usage of foul language upon me, shouting and insulting me. Many a time these happened in the presence of ex-colleagues and volunteers. Coupled to the above are the physical abuses I had to endure. The violent manner in which I was treated, being pulled around by my hair, shoved in the face, on the body, choked, etc, were common occurrences... I was subjected to defamatory insults such as being called a slut, a "nothing", a betrayer, a liar, sly etc by the manager."

Nine other workers joined Ms. Isaacs in the complaint. Georgia countered by accusing what she

called the "problem group" of being bad workers. Although she states that she reprimanded Jamilla daily, she also claimed, "I failed by not disciplining Jamilla."

At the time, 1997, Radio Atlantis was on the brink of being shut down. A Commission of Enquiry was formed, which included Zane Ibrahim, to investigate and make recommendations. This is what the former chairman of the Atlantis Reconstruction and Development Program, Omar Dollie, told journalist, Zenzile Khoisan:

"Radio Atlantis was supposed to close down because of the mismanagement of Eva Georgia. Open society was on the verge of taking back their equipment to the tune of a half million rand. The messenger of the court came in and wrote up all Radio Atlantis assets, we stepped in...There was never books kept in proper order. There were never audited statements. It was a total disaster..."

An accountant's letter verifies this. The commission decided against having Georgia arrested, and she was asked to resign.

On behalf of Zane Ibrahim, journalist Zenzile Khoisan interviewed several people in Atlantis about Georgia, and wrote up a summary of what he had learned. He concluded his report:

"Further, persons with whom she worked, and the paper trail from at least one institution she headed, raise serious doubts in respect of her ability to manage a major media outlet, deal fairly with a diverse staff and ensure fiscal integrity of a critical outlet for Pacifica."

Further, Coughlin learned that Georgia had been fired from her position at the non-profit Gay and Lesbian Center in Long Beach, California. Georgia sued the Center for wrongful termination, and the case is still pending. Georgia's complaint states that her supervisor defamed her by saying that she is a "liar", "cannot be trusted", "does not do her work", "physically attacks", and/or "is physically abusive". But even after he heard some very dire warnings about Georgia from unconnected sources in South Africa and the U.S., Coughlin decided that there was not enough information to "reverse the hire."

Something that angers critics of the hire in particular is the fact that soon after she arrived in the U.S., Eva Georgia tried for over three months to get a job at Pacifica's flagship station, KPFA in Berkeley. This was at a time when the staff was locked in struggle with Pacifica Executive Director and acting General Manager, Lynn Chadwick. As head of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters Chadwick was the creator of the Healthy Stations Project (HSP), which intended to make community stations economically solvent by using a corporate management structure and standardizing and mainstreaming programming. This model was embraced by successive Pacifica directors, and resulted in a concentration of power at the top of the network and the purging of hundreds of programmers in a quest to reach target markets in each area. Georgia received training by Chadwick in 1995 as part of an HSP initiative to "develop" South African radio managers.

But Chadwick is best remembered for hiring armed guards to occupy and finally lock down KPFA on July 13, 1999. The day of the lockdown was the day Georgia was supposed to have her final interview, presumably with Chadwick, for the position of program director. The KPFA staff won back their station after the community rallied to support them, but by then Georgia had given up on KPFA and headed south to L.A. to try her luck at KPFK.

How did the search committee fail to learn of Georgia's past? One problem is that only one person checked her references–LAB chair Lydia Brazon. Did Brazon ignore warning signs? It's impossible to know since not only did she fail to publish the three finalists' resumes, as promised to the listeners, but she has refused to issue a report on the process of the committee. Both Brazon and Pacifica board member David Fertig have been staunch apologists for Georgia.

A Question of Credibility

Then there are the fabrications. On July 1, Georgia told KPFK listeners that her final interview at KPFA was with Nicole Sawaya, the general manager Lynn Chadwick had fired 3 and a half months prior. When questioned during another on-air interview she said that she was confused because she met Sawaya in the parking lot outside of KPFA the day the station was shut down. Sawaya confirms she wasn't even in Berkeley on that date–she was hosting a radio show elsewhere and covering the lockout.

Eva Georgia related the following incidents to Steve Carney, for his June 7, 2002 article in the L.A. Times:

"A police commissioner investigating corruption died in a mysterious car crash, while a journalist subpoenaed to testify about what he had uncovered was murdered the day before the hearing, she said. Georgia herself was accosted at a stoplight by an assailant who put a gun to her head, and her home was ransacked. And a friend working with her to uncover corruption disappeared without a trace."

It makes for an exciting story; the problem is, sources in Cape Town claim these things never

happened. Asked to give the names of the dead police commissioner, the murdered journalist and the disappeared friend, Georgia complained about the "witch hunt" against her.

The new manager has also been known to make unfounded claims about her accomplishments, as when she recently said at the Pacifica Interim Board meeting Sept. 21 that she had restored communications between the KPFK Local Advisory Board and the station and between the station and the Pacifica National Archives which are housed on KPFK's second floor. Interim manager Steven Starr was actively collaborating with both entities months before Ms. Georgia started as GM.

KPFK Staff Complaints

The Healthy Stations Project, under which Georgia received a short training in 1995, advocated that community radio stations be run with a top-down management structure and no input from volunteers. It appears that Georgia took this management style to heart. On Sept.27 this year, KPFK's staff published an open letter which begins: "This past summer, the state of staff / management relations at KPFK deteriorated significantly. There is no workplace democracy left at KPFK. As individual LAB members can attest after attending several staff meetings, morale is extremely low." The letter goes on to say,

"The staff is concerned that the Mission of Pacifica is being disregarded ...Currently, the workplace at KPFK is running along the model of a corporate structure where workers have little or no say and decisions are made behind closed doors."

In the Mel Brooks movie, "The Producers", a pair of con artists sets out to produce the worst Broadway musical in history, hoping it will close the first night so they can rip off their investors. To their horror, the audience thinks it's hilarious and it becomes a big hit. Pacifica has its own con artists, who have hired the worst radio manager in history and tried to pass her off as competent and rational. In this case, however, nobody's laughing.


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