PNB and staff criticized in LA Indymedia article, response with info is here:

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This is a reposting from an article in www.la.indymedia that was in response to allegations and accusations made by another author who chose to remain anonymous - while freely making declarations against both the PNB, specific staff and board members, and named individuals who may need to realize their names are thus used.

Title of that article is :
Pacifica’s Current Board Structure is Destroying the Network
written by Concerned Pacifican
Monday, Sep. 28, 2009 at 5:19 PM {URL is below}

The freedom to make statements and not be called on them, or to accuse specific people and not be known for making those statements, and to repeatedly claim racial discrimination factors without factual confirmation in that article gives rise to the ways many prefer to operate [ in the dark, hiding behind a cute name, with the freedom but NO RESPONSIBILITY for their words or the effects ].

the article can be found at :
http://la.indymedia.org/news/2009/09/230683_comment.php#230721

the response copied from that same site is provided below to expose and inform the 'rest of us'. It was written by a long-time volunteer and contributor to the KPFK radio station and it's associates. In addition, another comment on the same URL above discusses the easy abuse of race as a way to accuse, defend, pretend and get gains, and how the census does not bear out the proportionality of USA populations to give fair and equal representation. That is not copied here due to lack of space.

This is the informative and hopefully helpful explanatory response:

Title: Network
by Terry Goodman Wednesday,
Sep. 30, 2009 at 4:05 PM
tgoodman4@roadrunner.com

As is typical of anonymous Indymedia acticles about Pacifica, the piece "Pacifica’s Current Board Structure is Destroying the Network" is biased, presenting misinformation as fact to manipulate opinion. Such articles reflecting a narrow ideological interpretation of historical events commonly appear in the middle of each Pacifica delegate election period. This refutation attempts to balance those distortions with accuracy.

There is certainly little doubt that Pacifica’s current board structure has problems or that the network is in distress, but the true causes of the network's disfunction actually predate its democratization. The original article is also generally correct in its central claim that a long-sought purge is underway. But what those primarily responsible for the network's problems now call an assault on everything good and decent is viewed by others as the long-delayed remedy to persistent mismanagement and the long-needed implementation of needed reform -- i.e, the success of the democratic governance model.

>"Carol Spooner's finger-wagging review of the current state of Planet Pacifica ignores the crushing impact of the new 122-member National Board structure."

The Pacifica National Board has only 21 or 22 Members who serve as a Board of Directors. The others in the "122-member" figure are locally-elected delegates who choose the Directors and have very little power beyond that. Spooner criticizes the democratized PNB for its years of inaction in delaying assumption of its management oversight role.

>"Top-heavy, hugely expensive, conflict-ridden and racially polarized, this five-year old Board system was instituted to assure greater democracy and prevent the corporatization of Pacifica. "

The Foundation itself is run by an Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer chosen by the Pacifica National Board. These officers have some staff (fewer now, after layoffs, than in prior years), so it is not really "top-heavy." The Board, which has been afflicted by the "racial polarization" of a particular faction in the years since democratization, provides nominal oversight over the activities of the Executive Director (CEO) and the CFO. The Board is "conflict-ridden" by design, since Pacifica's democratization uses methods of proportional representation in voting that assure voice to several minority factions among stakeholders, and this has allowed for roadblacks to progress and substantial governance disfunction.

The "hugely expensive" portion of the structure is the local delegate elections which occur in two out of every three years at a cost of about $200,000 each. The cost of elections could be substantially reduced through a transition to internet voting. The remaining costs of governance could be substantially reduced by boards focusing their attention on the policy revision and management oversight roles rather than wasting meeting time on contentious matters beyond the boards' scope of authority. The current PNB has significantly cuts meeting costs as compared to the arrangements previous left to the now exiled prior management.

>"this five-year old Board system was instituted to assure greater democracy and prevent the corporatization of Pacifica. "

The system was instituted to assure greater democracy in governance, and that has occurred. "Preventing corporatization" is problematical as an identified objective, because Pacifica is unambiguosly a California nonprofit corporation. In the minds of many who fought to achieve governance democratization, the purpose of this step was to protect the Foundation's Mission, since the general membership from whom Pacifica's financing is primarily obtained was perceived to be more generally dedicated to that Mission than the "old boy's network" that had produced a Board of Directors by means other than election by the project membership now identified as listeners and staff.

>"But instead of protecting Pacifica, the new governance structure is destroying Pacifica. "

Actually, the new governance structure is only just beginning to accomplish long-needed reforms and repair the damage caused by previous management. To make Pacifica's democratization evolutionary rather than revolutionary, stakeholders such as staff were guaranteed one-fouth of the seats in governance, and the power of managers was protected by prohibiting their dismissal without joint agreement between the Executive Directpr and the Local Station Board. Where management and staff found common interest, such as in maintaining the status quo, reform by governance was roadblocked or delayed.

>"It's bred factionalism, dysfunction, self-dealing, a plethora of litigation and staff purges network-wide. "

Factionalism actually existed prior to democratization, but it has been given a more formal shape through Pacifica's electoral politics. Pro-management and anti-management factions have appeared, as have pro-straff and anti-staff factions. There have also been factions for and against various sorts of programming, though many in governance still recognize that station programming needs protection from meddling by Pacifica's internal politicians.

Governance dysfunction has been encouraged by management and staff, as this protects the power of the status quo. Actual "self-dealing" is prohibited by law and has only been a problem when management has impeded financial inspections by Directors. Pacifica's current management leadership was at the forefront of prior governance efforts for fiscal accountability.

When LaVarn Williams was appointed as interim Pacifca CFO to replace Lonnie Hicks, it was not "self-dealing" because Williams was no longer a Foundation Director. Holding an MBA and having years of experience in corporate finance, she was well qualified for the position, not to mention her years of distinguished volunteer service as Foundation Treasurer and Chair of the PNB's Finance Committee. As an example of her ability, dedication, and integrity, she now additionally serves as interim General Manager of station WBAI, probably without receiving any salary for that work.

As the elected Chair of the Pacifica National Board, Grace Aaron became interim Executive Director of Pacifica by California statute when the position became vacant upon the resignation of Nicole Sawaya, so there was no "self-dealing" there. She initially served in this capacity with no salary, but could not afford to continue on that basis. The PNB has likely voted to award her a salary in order to keep her during its permanent Executive Director search, but this was a disclosed conflict of interest permitted under law because a more qualified individual was not easily available for a lesser rate -- a situation not dissimilar from the volunteer service of Dan Siegel as iED while being paid as the Foundation's Counsel. Board Chair/CEO combinations are fairly common in the corporate world, which helps explain why the California statute on CEO vacancies works like it does.

There was one case of Board Member Rob Robinson receiving the award of a fixed-fee contract for services related to preparation of a digital distribution strategy for the network. In this case the conflict of interest was fully disclosed and the statutory requirements to avoid prohibited self-dealing were fully met.

The only other situations reported in recent memory where a credible allegation of "self-dealing" might be made were in connection with Don Rojas who is no longer employed as WBAI's General Manager and in connection with Bernard White who has been dismissed as WBAI's Program Director.

Pacifica's problems with litigation, other than the early lawsuits that prompted democratization, have been primarily management-related employee lawsuits and not at all governance-related. Previous purges have typically been station management initiated so as to forestall needed reform, while the current purge is more Executive Director initiated in an attempt to institute needed reform. The need for reform is generally recognized now because financial reports are not being mischaracterized, but the nature and direction of the reforms needed is of course a matter of partisan interpretation.

>"The sad fact is that under this Board system Pacifica has become a pariah organization and the miserable object of universal pity and contempt. "

There's some truth here, but the assumption that the current Board system is the cause is not well-founded. If governance members were trained in the principles of policy governance and stuck to their assigned role, the system could work. It is not a substantially different system than the structure that works well in other nonprofit organizations. In actual fact, Pacifica has difficulting attracting good managers because those managers can expect constant abuse from the various factions opposing change, which are the same factions that have always sought to marginalize governance and keep it ineffective. The author of the original Indymedia article identifying the Pacifica democratic structure as the cause of long-standing problems rather than source of their eventual remedy clearly intends readers to abandon organizational democracy now that it is beginning to show fruit.

>"Until the governance structure is thrown out, Pacifica Radio will never be able to stabilize and focus on its historic mission. "

The management of the Pacifica Foundation and its radio stations is largely exempt from meddling by the largely paralyzed Pacifica National Board. Financial stabilization and Mission focus is fully within the authority of management when good executive leadership is in place.

>"But for Spooner and her faction, entrenched staff and false cries of racism are the problem. "

Entrenched staff and false cries of racism can be problems when they impede needed reform, but Pacifica's biggest problem is its weak programming.

>"Spooner says that the termination or removal earlier this year of seven males of color, including CFO Lonnie Hicks and WPFW GM Ron Pinchback, was necessary to restore financial stability. "

Pacifica's largely black male leadership was largely responsible for its declining revenues and runaway expenses.

>"But the reality is that since 2003, Spooner has demanded the summary dismissal of many of those same individuals on purely factional grounds. "

The reality is that since 2003, Spooner has demanded the dismissal of many of those individuals for cause. The issue became factionalized because some considered the targeted individuals to be protectors of others similarly incompetent.

>"In early 2004, then Board member Spooner made illegal and strident demands for the immediate termination of the entire network management, including CFO Lonnie Hicks and WPFW GM Ron Pinchback. Those demands earned a formal censure by then Board chair Leslie Cagan."

As a member of Pacifica's interim Pacifica National Board, Spooner's calls for management dismissals were not illegal, they were instead an attempted exercise of governance oversight. Spooner served as Foundation Secretary and chaired the Board's Governance and Finance Committees. iPNB Chair Leslie Cagan had no personal power to censure Spooner. Censure requires a Board vote.

>"Later that year, Spooner physically assaulted a female staff member in a pique of anger after failing to get the Board to summarily fire the then Executive Director. The staff member, a single mother, demanded that Spooner resign.

Considering the distortions through this article, I give no credit to this allegation in the absence of specific reference to evidence of claims.

>"Spooner's statement that simply because you replaced fired people of color with people of color means you can't be, or be called, racist is shocking. "

Calling dismissals racist just because the persons dismissed are of color is shocking.

>"The fact is it does not matter what the color of the person is you replace a fired person of color with."

That's a reassuring observation.

>"The firing itself for racially motivated reasons is illegal irrespective of any subsequent actions. "

A firing is illegal if it is for racially motivated reasons. Incompetent employees are not protected from dismissal by their race.

>"Spooner ignores the fact that Pacifica's attorney at the time of the firings warned the Pacifica Board against those summary firings precisely on the basis that it exposed the network to possible charges of racial discrimination. "

Okay, maybe incompetent employees are protected from dismissal by their race.

>"As a result of recommending against the terminations, the network attorney was then forced out. "

The facts here seem mixed up. Pacifica's attorney for most of the time when Spooner served on the iPNB was Kevin Finck. A subsequent Foundation Counsel, Dan Siegel recently resigned after CFO Lonnie Hicks was dismissed. Siegel and Hicks were both part of the Pacifica financial problem requiring remedy. Both had illegally blocked Director inspections investigating credible allegations of financial mismanagement.

>"The fact is that Spooner and the faction she represents have been openly seeking the summary dismissal of many paid staff around the network for years. "

A Pacifica faction has been demanding that bad Pacifica managers be dismissed for years. That faction recently became a majority on the Pacifica National Board through the influence of the democratic election of local delegates by the Pacifica membership.
Opening seeking change is part of the democratic governance process, and management blocking needed change is subject to dismissal under the concept of accountability.

>"Financial mismanagement is a convenient excuse. "

Lack of operating funds is an inescapable handicap.

"And once removed, the very Board members who had openly demanded their removal end up replacing those paid staff members. "

A Foundation Director and former Director with demonstrated histories of fiscal responsibility have recently been appointed as interim Executive Director and interim Chief Financial Officer of the Foundation while permanent managers are sought.

<"In fact, naked self-dealing by current and past Board members is common in the new Pacifica. "

As explained in answer to the previous allegation of self-dealing above, this charge is simply not true.

"In her latest email, for instance, Spooner does not reveal that for the last several years she has been working for Free Speech Radio News (FSRN), an independent entity funded almost entirely by Pacifica. "

The fact merits disclosure, but does not disqualify Spooner's opinions. FSRN depends upon Pacifica's survival for its continued funding, so there is a concordance of interest. Alternative media is a small world and those who leave one such organizaton often find employment in another similar organization.

>FSRN has received some two million dollars from the network without any strings
>attached.

Those who negotiated the contract with Pacifica on behalf of FSRN probably don't consider it a "no-strings" agreement.

>Unlike Pacifica staff members, or Democracy Now!, FSRN is not required to fundraise
>and, in fact, raises functionally nothing for the network.

Pacifica benefits from the fundraising that FSRN does on its own behalf, because the quality of the program is improved by application of these additional resources. The requirement that Pacifica staff members fundraise is occasionally a liability to fundraising efforts.

>But while Pacifica staff members are laid off due to "economic reasons," or fired
>supposedly because of financial mismanagement, Spooner's FSRN outfit still receives
>hundreds of thousands of dollars every year from the network.

The only really valid question with respect to the Pacifica-FSRN or Pacifica-Democracy Now! agreements is whether or not Pacifica is getting its money's worth. This is the same question that has been applied in some employee dismissals, retentions, and layoffs.

>This fact should be a wake-up call to the entire Pacifica community and media reform
>movement.

That Pacifica pays FSRN for news is a wake-up call?

>"Pacifica is threatened not by entrenched staff or false claims of racism. "

Pacifica is well-served by some entrenched staff but not by others. False claims of racism don't help the situation any.

<"But like in the late 1990s, the National Board itself is the problem --"

The National Board is always part of the problem and part of the solution.

>"unjust firings, gagging dissident producers, self-dealing, running up legal bills, deepening racial divisions and putting at risk the entire organization for narrow personal or factional gain. "

Unjust firings are not good, but most recent firings have been fully justified. Gagging dissident producers is not good, but what is currently being characterized as "gagging" was mostly just a warning that existing policies against character defamation would be enforced. Illegal self-dealing has largely been stopped in part through the current reform effort. Managers under whose tenure expensive lawsuits arose have been eased out or dismissed. "Racial divisions" have been an excuse for poor job performance and a roadblock to improving standards and implementing appropriate accountability. Pacifica's interim leadership is not in the struggle for personal gain, as demonstrated by their long histories of volunteer service to the organization, but it is a sad commentary on the state of Pacifica's electoral politics when the financial sustainability of a station is recognized as an essential issue by one faction and dismissed as a distraction by another.

>"the solution is clear -- the current Board structure must go, the sooner the better. "

The current Board structure cannot be changed unless the membership votes to change it or a court appoints a receiver that removes the few powers that the Pacifica Board of Directors retain. The only sooner solution potentially available to Pacifica is bringing in good management. If the Board can improve management through executive selection, policy review, and general oversight, it can help solve problems. Otherwise, it can only create problems.

Good management can typically work around a disfunctional Board. Better management can improve a Board by providing training, guidance, and leadership.