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Pacifica Radio Coup Redux Part II

by JUC Thursday, Apr. 09, 2009 at 4:58 AM

New York: An Examination of the Current Coup Attempt at WBAI With Reference to the KPFA Takeover in 2000


(Part Two)

Yes, WBAI is in severe financial trouble. Yes, like most other organizations we can further improve our internal processes. And, yes we are willing to learn from the experience of others especially those whose operations are similar. But what is very troubling is a pattern of behavior demonstrated in the last 60 days by those in control of the national office that is too similar to those that occurred in the 1990’s at other stations and at WBAI in 2000. The Pacifica National Board (PNB) is currently chaired by Grace Aaron of Los Angeles. The state of California, where Pacifica is incorporated, also allows her to serve as the interim Executive Director (iED) of the foundation. It is in wearing this hat that she has taken unconscionable privileges.

The foundation’s bylaws, as amended in 2003, reflect a deliberate intention to eliminate the old “executive committee” which could and did make significant decisions about the entire operation. In fact, the current bylaws specifically arrange for open in-person and web-streamed board and committee meetings, for consultation in setting dates and times and for public notice of those meetings. There is evidence, however, of efforts to bypass these processes by utilizing a shadow cabinet or government within a government.



This time the national office did not send 3 women and a baby to change the office locks late on a Friday night of a long holiday weekend as they did on December 22, 2000; and to our knowledge they have not reactivated the security cameras installed during that period. Nor have they yet limited staff access to the station to a short window just before and after on-air appearances. But they did send messages to selected staff and local contractors – specifically circumventing the station’s general manager – to change the lock to the room at the Empire State Building where the transmitter that allows us to broadcast is located.

Just as “security” was cited in December 2000 and in September 2001 (Think P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act) Aaron is overstepping her bounds. Citing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that governs radio, television and cable broadcasts she wrongly conflates responsibility for the airwaves – a primary General Manager responsibility – with the mission, control and direction of local programming, and uses that as a justification for her recently revealed secret orders that are violative of station autonomy. Aaron’s clearly stated intent is to position herself to direct an engineer to input coordinates into equipment at the transmitter that would allow our station’s signal to be controlled from anywhere in the world.

Aaron would have us believe that after serving as Pacifica’s FCC attorney for almost 20 years, John Kreigler suddenly realized that the best way to “protect” ourselves was by locking local transmitters away from local management and setting up the stations to become un-personed drones. Being carefully vague she leaves open the possibility that new general counsel might have put in a word or two in this direction as well.

Consolidating Power:

Executive Control – The last Executive Director, Nicole Sewaya, left in October 2008. Sherry Gendelman of Berkeley, then chair of the PNB and one of the plaintiffs in the 1999 lawsuit to rein in the old PNB, served as IED until the first 2009 meeting of the PNB. At that meeting the last weekend in January in Los Angeles, Grace Aaron was roundly criticized by other members of her local board for having called an excessive number of executive (closed) sessions of the Local Station Board when she occupied that chair position, and by community members and station staff. Aaron and her new national board majority met in closed session and in the middle of the night hired LaVarn Williams as Interim Chief Financial Officer (iCFO).

Financial Control – The CFO opening was never noticed and the job never posted so no one else had an opportunity to apply. Professional references for Williams, a former member of the Pacifica National Board from KPFA-Berkeley – who just happened to be about 400 miles south in LA for an unannounced middle of the night “interview” – were not checked before she was installed as the CFO of a network in financial trouble. The previous CFO, Lonnie Hicks, was disappeared for much of the summer, returned to work in October, and then, according WBAI Public Affairs Director Kathy Davis who violated fair campaign rules to help elect the current local board majority, fired. Hicks says no explanation for his termination was forthcoming but that he was given an ultimatum to resign or be fired. His deadline was less than 12 hours before Williams was “hired”.

Legal Control – At that same LA meeting Pacifica’s legal counsel, Dan Siegel, who had previously served as attorney for the Listener lawsuit, resigned citing board member conduct adverse to the interests of the foundation and the board’s refusal to follow legal advice. The “advice” of the new interim attorney, Riccardo DeAnda, who like iCFO Williams was hired hurriedly and without job announcement, is being used as justification for Aaron’s questionable behavior such as arranging for secret lockdowns of the transmitter in New York as mentioned above. (Listeners and staff in Washington DC, Berkeley, Los Angeles and Houston: ARE YOU LISTENING?)

Stretching Out Their Terms:

Although the national board majority gives lip service to the need for stability introduced by qualified, mission-committed personnel they have set the ad for a permanent Executive Director to run for 45 days. Yes, 45 days in print and online. Assume a minimum of 45 days to sort resumes, interview, re-interview, check references and negotiate a salary, starting date and possible relocation and we have the current crew in place for another 3 to 4 months. Don’t they know there are more than 1.4 million unemployed college graduates in the US? Surely a handful of them are qualified candidates.

What are Aaron’s qualifications for the position of IED? Does she possess the skills to mobilize and serve a large and diverse group of people spread over a large geographic area? Judging from her attempt to force the public out of the meeting room during the auditor’s report, and her tendency to ignore / excuse / rely on the incredible, outright, constant, nasty breaches of decorum by her screaming board-mate O’Brien, I think not. What is her media background? Her knowledge of broadcasting? I am pleased that her skills were such that the attempt to silence the voices at WBAI was unsuccessful. Having read through the deliberately vague responses to some rather simple questions, I am deeply concerned that she holds the top office in our network.

In a textbook case of conflict of interest, Aaron’s friends are now trying to help her “get paid” where all other sitting national board chairs who served as IED did so without a salary, as did former counsel Dan Siegel when he was IED. On Sunday night they voted to move that discussion into closed session.


Aaron has announced her plan to come to WBAI this Wednesday April 8, with her “iCFO, LaVarn Williams, and several staff “loaned” by KPFK. One wonders what kind of union allows its workers to be used to facilitate a coup. Just as she forgot to mention to WBAI GM Tony Riddle that she was going to lock his staff out of our transmitter, she forgot to mention when she’d be making a visit to New York. Perhaps she was too busy rounding up a “team”. Apparently with deficits in fundraising around the network, increases in operating expenses, and lawsuits galore the best use of money is to fly and house numerous Californians in New York so they can “fix what needs fixing, wipe out any backlogs such as in mailing out premiums, repair equipment, enhance the website”.

Aren’t there telephone lines in Los Angeles that reach New York – and all the other stations – allowing staff to share knowledge and expertise? Aren’t there listeners here who can run a duplicator, stuff envelopes and slap on mailing labels? What is really the thinking of the managers of KPFA (Berkeley) and KPFK (LA) who Aaron claims want their people in New York and who by job definition work under Aaron’s direction and whose firing can be initiated by her? Documents may have to be signed in person at the banks of all station areas but why the need for a caravan? What is really the purpose of this trip?

On the national board teleconference Sunday night Aaron mentioned they’ll also be addressing WBAI’s legal troubles. This would include the 18-month old election-related lawsuit brought by the List-Prog / ACE / “Independents” such as WBAI local board chair Mitchel Cohen, national board member and National Finance Committee chair James Ross from Rockland County which has reportedly cost the station more than 0,000...more than we earned in the just-completed emergency 3-day drive.

Background on the lawsuit is below but the key point here is that in settlement of the lawsuit they are demanding the station’s mailing list – your name and address.

Let IED Grace Aaron know how much an autonomous BAI means to you. Write to the Pacifica National Board who Aaron claims support her actions. She and the other national board members get copies of e-mail sent to (Pacifica’s technicians can’t explain why Nia Bediako is now only occasionally able to receive mail sent to the board address but let’s not assume the worse. You can copy Bediako at while they figure it out.)

And if you can, come out to meet and greet Ms. Aaron and her “team”. They’ll be at the station tomorrow, Wednesday during the day and likely at the Finance Committee meeting that evening from 7:00 p.m. Call 212-209-2800 during the day to arrange admission. You can also call-in at 212-209-2900 during the Local Station Board report that night from 9:00 p.m. -11:00 p.m.

Share your thoughts about the attempted transmitter lockout; the calls by Mitchel Cohen and others to remove Errol Maitland and Bernard White who spelled out the problem on Thursday’s Wake Up Call, and the implicit threat to the employment of GM Tony Riddle for not firing them; the attempt to censure WBAI national board-member Nia Bediako – who’s been experiencing technical difficulties accessing mail sent to the PNB – list for alledgedly breaching confidentiality by making a motion during a web streamed board teleconference on March to have a public discussion of Aaron’s idea to put BAI into “internal receivership” and manage and program our station from the national office; Aaron’s intention to change programming largely on the basis of raising income; and to settle her friends’ lawsuit by giving them the contact information you gave to the station during fundraising.

WBAI Election Lawsuit Background:

The ACE-ists violated the election rules by utilizing station resources – namely the station’s mailing list – to convey the endorsement of listener candidates by staff members Public Affairs Director Kathy Davis and engineer Shawn Rhodes who was hired into the Operations Department during the 2000-2001 Christmas Coup. Working with former Arts Department head, Janet Coleman, Davis added a slew of people to the staff voting list as she did in the previous election when she was elected to the board.

The ACE-ists were given extra time to redesign their campaign literature to prevent the harvesting (again) of the station’s mailing list by multimillionaire marketer Steve Brown whose racist and poisonous emails litter the internet. (Brown’s characterization of Black men “aping” each other makes him a likely candidate for ownership of the New York Post where they see little problem with comparing America’s first African-American president with a dead chimp.) They then argued that the National Election Supervisor should not have extended the return dates for ballots by the number of days he’d delayed the outgoing ballots so that their “literature” would arrive at the voters’ homes at same time or earlier than the ballots. They claimed that only their supporters had trouble receiving ballots. This is patently untrue as many supporters and even some candidates of Justice & Unity had tremendous difficulty getting ballots.

They’ve gone after the approximately 40 people who were granted hardship waivers in 2007 arguing that they “missed the deadline” although the election supervisor had determined that the Waivers Committee could use the same postmark date for applications that he had declared acceptable for payments. Apparently the ACE-ists believe there should be one standard for those who can pay and another for those who cannot.

Now, no sane person would deny that the last elections were deeply flawed. Membership lists were problematic, the initial ballot mailing was delayed to accommodate one slate – theirs, replacement ballots were delayed and some never received, announcements were inadequate, etc. but that election – which they “won” – is long over.

The national elections committee has been working hard, and if knowledge and experience reign in the selection process rather than the usual pomposity and bitterness we might end up with a good National Election Supervisor and a reasonable election process.


First, I cannot be free while my neighbor is wearing chains.

Second, I cannot know happiness while others are forced to live in despair.

Third, I cannot know health if plague and famine thrive outside my door. And last, but not least, I cannot expect to know peace if war rides forward under my flag and with my consent.

-- What Next: A Memoir Toward World Peace - Walter Mosley

Stars twinkle even as the sun monopolizes your vision... faybiene miranda

Responsibility: Who did what to whom? Not a "slave" but an "enslaved person", not "slavery" but "enslavement".

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if WBAI cant fiinancially make it on it's own.... sidestepping no issue Thursday, Apr. 09, 2009 at 10:07 PM

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