Rip Robbins on Executive Director Contract Derailment

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Okay Kevin, I will speak louder as a minority voice on the PNB (I can assure you that my fellow Board members find my voice plenty loud, and I have not tried to hide my feelings from them over the past 18 months!).

This is all my own opinion, and others probably will debate my assumptions and conclusions, however I want to add my account of history to the annals of Pacifica for debate of the future, as the lists by themselves generate more rumor than fact, and some on these lists may be quite happy to have Greg leaving, as they may be some of the very ones threatened by his capability to implement needed changes.

Much of the debacle surrounding the 9 month effort to fire the ED took place in executive session and cannot be disclosed, unfortunately. 

I don’t know the law regarding disclosure of personnel documents, but I wonder if the individual affected can authorize release of those documents?  In other words, can Greg Guma authorize release of his own evaluation (with names within redacted)?  Can he release the numerical tally of the final vote by the PNB, which is the conclusion of the evaluation process, where PNB Directors each voted one of 5 choices:  To receive merit increase in pay, Above Satisfaction but pay stays same, Satisfaction but needs some improvement, Not Satisfactory, Immediate Dismissal.  The same vote was recently held for the CFO evaluation.

My own take on the matter is that within 6 months of being hired, Guma implied that he would be unable to fully perform the job if the PNB refused to change some fundamental structural problems (read the public ED report from June 2006) regarding supervision and authority, and some on the Board seized the opportunity to turn his own words on him.  The 2006 Board, at the June meeting, voted to support the ED and revived the Personnel Committee to review Greg’s suggestions and to make recommendations that would enable the ED to better perform the job in the best interest of the Foundation (also to realize the dream of a functional national media voice organization that could take on the opponents of the Common Good, like the Bush regime), but the vote of confidence just kicked in a stronger effort by some on the Board to undermine that vote, and by October 2006, the Personnel Committee, which through a crazy mistake suddenly was dominated by an extreme faction of the Board by 1 vote, began sidetracking the governance process, and stifled any attempts to implement the changes requested by Greg. 

By the end of January, with a majority of votes on the new Board swinging to their side, the same faction then derailed the ED contract renewal, voted down changes in structural supervisory authority, and began an extended and belabored evaluation process, that in my opinion, breached all norms, and was extended by some 6 weeks to allow every recalcitrant station staff member to take a stab at him (my opinion).  His evaluation, despite the best efforts of those in opposition, resulted in a strong vote of Satisfaction, but the damage to the ED’s morale had been done.  Some of the things said behind closed doors were awful, not reflecting well on the “peaceful” nature of Pacificans.  As far as the ‘minority’ vote being loud enough, we were able to grind the Board to a halt for the entire month of May in a vicious 5 week debate that demonstrated the knowledge and ability of all the members to utilize Robert’s Rules against each other.  Meeting each Friday night for up to 8 hours at a time, the Board ended up ham-strung with multiple competing motions and a stand-off that paralyzed all actions.  This forced some innovative alliances among different members which successfully brokered a compromise deal that partially busted the anti-Greg faction and brought the current settlement to bear (see July 29 notice about ED resignation).

Pause: Take Breath

Another coincidental take on this history that I have come to believe, is that ‘a faction’ of currently elected Board members and staff to which I refer, were afraid of Greg’s ability to take on the deepest-rooted problems at stations and the National Office, as they saw a reduction of their control at their stations if he was allowed to continue.  This is the reason they turned against him within months of him taking the job.  They lobbied the swing votes on the PNB heavily, and were able to mis-represent Greg’s intent.  Members like myself were reduced to being called “Gregistas”, as though supporting the ED was treason against the Foundation.

The problem is really with the LSB elections, which bring a bunch of single-issue candidates who do not care about the overall network or the ability of the Foundation to operate its stations effectively.  They defend their narrow positions by stating that they are simply representing the listeners and staff who elected them.  Most Pacifica station elections are a farce with less than quorum actually voting (quorum is considered achieved if empty envelopes are received?!)  At some stations, staff votes are stacked by single programs claiming 10 or 20 producers.  At one station, it is considered illegal to print out a list of program producers, so how does anyone know who is an eligible staff voter?

If the elections could bring some open-minded candidates who are more interested in rebuilding Pacifica as a national voice for change, instead of interested in building a mind-masturbation quasi-government (see Greg’s March 2006 report and July 2007 report), we would move much more rapidly toward regaining the status and importance that is eroding around Pacifica’s foundation.

Free Press, Democracy Now!, and Prometheus Radio seem to be collaborating to build their own media network.  They probably don’t see Pacifica as capable of pulling itself back to some operational functionality, due to the internal focus and bitter attacks within the organization that could continue for years, now that Guma has been pushed out.  With such a competent and qualified individual forced out, it leaves a bad odor for the job applicants:  who of any competence would apply for a job with such a history?  With over 200 community radio stations out there, it will be easy for another group to rise well over Pacifica, which will be left to patch up its crumbling infrastructure, and fall into the same condition of urban decay that is so apparent in the cities in which they operate, and eventually default to some bank loan, and then foreclosure of its main assets, the NY and SF frequencies which are worth about a combined 4 to 8 million dollars.

Of course, it doesn’t HAVE to go that way……

Enough gossip to keep the lists flourishing for days, eh?

Rip Robbins


more from Rip

Writing too quickly before, I need to make sure a correction is made:

My scenario for the 4-8 HUNDRED MILLION dollar assets in foreclosure is far-fetched and highly exaggerated end result.

I am not opposed to a fairly democratic process for representation, but I think some qualities beyond single-issue-station-focus should be required for the National Board reps.

We have people on the Board who are very capable, just not enough of them, and the internal focus is so distracting. Aside from the ED evaluation which was approved in October 2006 and not completed until March of 2007, and the CFO evaluation approved in February of 2007 and just completed in the final minutes of the July PNB meeting, we have a continual anchor-dragging the Foundation by PNB members more interested in seeking legislative punishment a few LSB members for rude comments, than they are interested in completing business for the national network operations. I just saw a comment on some list demanding that Pacifica create a Judicial Branch!!?? Give me a break.

Pacifica is being used by some as an experiment in creating a perfect-dream functioning government, almost like a college graduation thesis (see ED report July 2007--please!). Really it is very simply a business, with a different goal from the norm. The goal is to provide discourse and variety, not to make a profit.

Rip Robbins
KSVR General Manager