You remember Grace Aaron? She was the Scientology-leaning chair of the KPFK Local Station Board when South African General Manager Eva Georgia gave up on KPFK. Aaron was the head of the Committee To Strengthen KPFK, the slate of LSB candidates that made it impossible to get elected without a costly mailer to voters. Riding on the back of Georgia’s departure, Aaron became chair of the Pacifica National Board and interim Executive Director for the entire year of 2009, since the PNB couldn’t or wouldn't get it together to find a replacement for her.
She promised her allies she would give Pacifica a one-woman make-over when she couldn’t get her choice of consultant hired for the job. Aaron keeps her promises. During her tenure, every manager of color in Pacifica save one disappeared from their position, including KPFK’s program director Armando Gudiño. When Grace was finished, also among the missing at KPFK were news director Fernando Velasquez, popular "Beneath the Surface" host Jerry Quickley, and KPFK’s local news.
That was the promised make-over. The woman had wormed her way into a paying position, held the two most powerful titles in Pacifica, and remade Pacifica. Cutting edge and local news and public affairs were pushed to the sidelines, and liberal talking heads interspersed with self-help premiums took their place at the center of KPFK's programming. By all accounts, listenership fell off precipitously. In September 2008, Pacifica’s net worth was $7.2M; in December 2009, it was $4.1M.
Today, Grace’s husband Ken has taken her seat, while Grace remains on the Committee To Strengthen KPFK. What is she doing since she left Pacifica governance? Grace is suing Pacifica.
We're not kidding. Grace Aaron has named Pacifica as a defendant in a convoluted lawsuit, along with Pacifica’s prior legal counsel and interim Executive Director, Dan Siegel. Grace’s co-plaintiffs include a KPFA member, Daniel Borgstrom, and corporation interim CFO LaVarn Williams, whose interim position may be more secure while the lawsuit is pending.
Aaron, LaVarn, and Borgstrom are claiming that Siegel damaged them when he referred to “ethnic cleansing” under Pacifica’s unnamed new leadership in his 2009 election statement. In other words, Aaron and her crowd want to sue Siegel for speaking during a Pacifica election.
If you read Borgstrom, Williams, and Aaron's suit (case no. RG10524638), you’ll see that Aaron et al. promise to transfer any monetary awards from Siegel to Pacifica. Yup. She’s suing Pacifica with her promise to give Pacifica any money she wins.
This isn’t the first time Aaron has sued Pacifica. In 2007, under her leadership the CTSK went to court to demand a new election because Pacifica didn’t send those mailers out on the timeline they wanted. They settled for a recount when it turned out their top vote-getter hadn’t been a member of KPFK for a decade. Even in the litigious environment that is Pacifica, it’s difficult not to call Aaron’s slate the Committee to Sue KPFK. They’re already raising the possibility of a 2010 election lawsuit at nearly every Local Station Board meeting.
Aaron is back in court believing that some judge is, effectively, going to award a defendant money if the plaintiff prevails. And she and her co-plaintiffs are shopping for the right judge to do it: her attorney, Richard Phelps, has already had one thrown out. Aaron and the other plaintiffs are betting that the judge won’t include Pacifica in any damages (and are the plaintiffs going to give that back to Pacifica, too?). Will Pacifica recoup its legal costs, too? The lawsuit doesn’t mention who’s picking up Phelps' legal fees. And Aaron’s somehow imagined that Siegel, who was in Pacifica’s employ at the time of the alleged harm, won’t turn a loss around and sue Pacifica.
For those that have followed Pacifica's recent history, it's become apparent that our donations are funding a string of disgruntled employees and flawed elections. Daniel Borgstrom, LaVarn Williams, and Grace Aaron have become part of that discouraging tradition.