THIS FASCINATING REPORT OF CONVERSATIONS WITH PACIFICA BOARD MEMBERS CAME TO ME ON A "CC LIST. IT WAS WRITTEN BY SOMEONE NAMED DAVID. I AM ATTEMPTING TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT DAVID AND WILL LET YOU KNOW.
Carol Spooner, Editor
Here are the summaries of my conversations over the past few days with
several members Pacifica Foundation's Board of Directors. I have left
messages for each of them, and so far have spoken with Robert Farrell, Ken
Ford, Rob Robinson, Bill Lucy, Pete Bramson, Aaron Kriegel, and Jewelle
I just wanted to know "who are these people?" There is much more to know,
of course, but their comments are revealing, and if nothing else,
demonstrate the deep divisions that exist on the Board. Some of the
Directors are genuinely interested in responding to KPFA listeners, and
they do not support the heavy-handed tacitcs of Lynn Chadwick and Mary
Berry. I urge every subscriber to call these folks and offer support.
Unless the entire board resigns -- which may be a necessary step at this
point, these free-speech supporters on the Board risk being forced off the
Board in well-managed purges -- I have no doubt that this is possible.
Jewelle Taylor-Gibbs told me, almost in tears, that she thinks she has no
choice but to resign.
So -- here's what they had to say.
So -- here's what they had to say.
Robert Farrell -- currently an Editor at the LA Sentinel, formerly an LA City Councilman, Mr. Farrell I believe was nominated by the Local Advisory Board that includes KPFK in LA.
I began by telling Mr. Farrell that I was interested in who the members of Pacifica's Board were -- that their actions look to me, a loyal KPFA listener but not a devotee, to be really crazy. Later I had to clarify several times -- I wasn't calling the Board members crazy, just saying that from where I sit, their behavior looks bizarre. He responded slowly and deliberately, "What you are seeing is a labor-management dispute, that's all." "That's all?" He repeated the opinion again, adding that "unfortunately a few individuals have decided to take advantage of this situation". He insisted that that was it. I paused and then said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Farrell, but I have to tell you that as far as I can tell, no one with half a brain believes even for a moment that this is 'just a labor-management dispute.'" He then quickly agreed with me.
Mr. Farrell then lectured me about the "appropriateness" of the gag rule,
"which every newspaper and television station in this country abides by."
Did I think that those business could function if every reported could vent
his personnel grievances against management to the public, he challenged
me. I asked him: did he really believe that that was the issue here?
Yes, KPFA staffers had violated the gag rule, but their actions might in
fact be protected under the California Unruh Act, which provides broad and
overarching protection to any citizen who speaks out in protest of illegal
acts. Mr. Farrell refused to discuss this, saying "I don't know about
that" and returned to his theme that this was a labor-management dispute
and it couldn't be resolved in the public.
He then asked me what else I wanted to know.
So I asked about how and when the decisions were made to bring in security,
and then armed security guards. Again he answered slowly, almost as if he
was reading (although I have no reason to believe he was): "It was brought
to the Board's attention that members of Pacifica staff were being
threatened and felt extremely uncomfortable."
"So you ordered armed guards?"
"That was the decision, yes," he answered.
"Whose decision -- Chadwick's, or the Board."
Eventually, after several rounds of answers in the passive voice "it was decided" "it was concluded", Robert Farrell said it was Chadwick's decision, and that the Board supported it. His voice changed from slow and even as he told me "these African-American women were subjected to racial epithets and threats -- verbally, and phone calls."
I was still not clear on the timeline -- Mr. Farrell was the first Board member who called me back -- and he actually tried to reach me at least three times. At the time that I spoke to him, I did not know that the Pacifica staffers he was referring to had spoken to the Board at the June 25-27 meeting. The first security guards had been in place before this.
Mr. Farrell was very clear, however, that he considered the verbal abuse of Pacifica staffers absolutely to justify the ordering of armed guards into KPFA. So I described a little of my experience with sexual harassment and race/sex discrimination cases, and said that I had seen cases of really scary verbal abuse, but in none of them had anyone on any side of the issue called for armed guards in the organization. What is called for is an immediate investigation, and swift response -- against the perpetrators. Had this happened at Pacifica/KPFA, I asked.
"The Board determined that the decision by Lynn Chadwick to protect the safety of these women had to be supported."
I tried to make clear that I couldn't in any way support the verbal abuse
or threats, but still the reaction seemed out of proportion. Mr. Farrell
finally added a slight variation, "Our lawyers told us we had to respond."
"Pacifica's lawyers told the Board they needed to put Ipsa guards in KPFA?"
"We received advice from counsel."
Again we went several rounds like this -- I asked who the lawyers were -- I assume this is public information but at the time I didn't know. Mr. Farrell refused to tell me.
I asked again, and he responded with a long statement about how I obviously wasn't going to understand. I insisted that I wanted to understand. After a long pause, Mr. Farrell then challenged me to talk to the Pacifica staffers who had made their fears known to the Board. After I insisted several times that I would very much like to talk to those staffers, Mr. Farrrell gave me the name of Virginia Ransom and her extension number at Pacifica. He then thanked me for my call and hung up.
(I have since called and left a message for Virginia Ransom, but haven't yet heard from her.)
Aaron Kriegel -- Rabbi at Temple Ner Maarav in Encino and a board member through the LAB that represents KPFK.
I reached Rabbi Kreigel on Wednesday, July 14th, just after Pacifica's spokeswoman Elan Fabbri had issued a public rebuke of Rabbi Kreigel's statement of concern about Pacifica's actions (I was aware at the time of the Rabbi's "dissent" but not of Fabbri's response.)
Rabbi Kriegel was obviously disturbed and saddened by Ms. Fabbri's response. He told me that he supports Pacifica and its goals, and that support includes letting the public know that he does not support some of the current tactics. Rabbi Kriegel said, when I asked him about the guards, and the complaints from staffers, "Guards were put in place before [Pacifica staffer Virginia] Ransom and another [staffer] made complaints to the Board...placing the guards was a management decision."
I tried to clarify this -- had Chadwick made the decision alone and then asked for Board support, or had she consulted the Board. Rabbi Kriegel demurred, saying he is "pretty new" to the Board, but that it was his understanding that Chadwick had made the decision, about both groups of security guards, and then had gone to the Board to sanction the decision.
I asked Rabbi Kriegel to tell me about Lynn Chadwick -- her background, how she came to be chosen to head Pacifica. He really didn't want to talk about it -- he urged me to talk to other Board members.
Ken Ford -- a member of the Board nominated by the LAB that includes WPFW in Washington, D.C. Mr. Ford would not tell me what business he is with in Washington.
I asked Mr. Ford -- what is your understanding of why and when the guards were put in place. He answered immediately, "It was because Jeffey Blankford made threats to Virginia Ransom."
Note to readers/listeners: Jeffrey Blankford strenuously denies Ken Ford's accusations, and has, beofre my conversaton with Ford put the board on notice not to repeat these allegations. Blankford told me he spoke with VIrginia Ransom, and with her permission, taped the conversation in which she assures him that she knows that he is not the person who harrassed her.
"You know who made these threats."
"Yeah. We know."
"You know?" (Everyone else had implied that these were anonymous calls and threats.)
"Have you disciplined Mr. Blankford -- or if the threats warrant it, brought charges against him?"
"We haven't gotten around to that -- yet."
I then told Mr. Ford of my experience with harassment, and my belief that
the only deterrent is an immediate and impartial investigation, followed by
appropriate sanctions or discipline. If someone makes threats of physical
violence, then that's a police matter.
He answered, "Well, the local police advised us to hire the guards."
"The Berkeley police advised you?" I then told Mr. Ford that Mr. Farrell had told me that Pacifica's lawyers had advised the hiring of guards, and Ford insisted several times that the Berkeley police chief had told Lynn Chadwick that she needed to hire her own security -- that they couldn't or wouldn't provide protection for the Pacifica staffers.
So why not put the guards in Pacifica's offices -- if that's where the protection was needed, I asked. Was Mr. Blankford the only perpetrator. Mr. Jones insisted that he was, and so I asked again -- why armed guards in Pacifica, and no action, civil or criminal, against Mr. Blankford?
Mr. Ford became exasperated and told me again that it was the advice of the Berkeley police. I asked if the Berkeley police had the information about Mr. Blankford. Mr. Ford then said he would tell me the "whole story" if I was interested. I assured him I was -- and told him I would take careful notes.
He began, "ok. Imagine you are a Pacifica staffer and you are at work, you're at your desk, you're doing your job, and in burst 52 people into your workplace. You're just sitting there, and you have no idea who they are or why they are there -- now wouldn't you feel threatened?"
I answered (perhaps unwisely), "Oh come on, Mr. Ford, I may not know exactly who they are, but I know why they're there -- there had been protests for days..."
Mr. Ford cut me off. He yelled, "Are you gonna to listen to me, or are you gonna shout in my fuckin' ear!" and hung up.
This last remark was loud enough to be heard across my speaker through my office. I called Mr. Ford back and left a message asking him to please continue the conversation. He hasn't called back.
Rob Robinson -- nominated to the national board from the Local Advisory Board (LAB) that includes WPFW in Washington DC.
I asked Mr. Robertson to describe his understanding of how and why the security guards were brought into KPFA. He answered, "At the Board meeting in Washington on June 25, 26, and 27, Executive Director [Lynn Chadwick] staged a little event" in which several Pacifica staffers told the Board how threatened they felt . "Staged?" I asked. "Yeah -- staged -- it was very effective," he said. Mr. Robertson went on to say that the Board was influenced by the testimony of the staffers, and agreed to increase the level of security at the station. But he went on to say that that didn 't mean that the entire Board was in agreement with all of the recent actions by the Executive Director. "The Board is divided," he said, "some of them heard about Sawaya's firing after it was done. There are very very deep divisions on the Board. The Board has gotten in-bred....some of us are deeply troubled by what [Chadwick] has done and the way she's done it. Firing Nicole -- well the timing was terrible -- it was a masterpiece of bad timing."
This theme -- that this is all basically just a personnel issue -- or a labor-management dispute and nothing more -- keeps being offered, even by Board members who seem sympathetic to the protesters. Robinson agreed that there is more to this than just a labor dispute, but went on to say that "Nicole and Lynn were jockeying to be picked by Pat Scott...the personal hostility between the two women was well-known. Lynn won -- she was trying to remove a hated rival. And Nicole is something of a leader -- Lynn is not -- she's rather lackluster."
Robinson added that there is an "inner-circle" on the Board - including in
addition s to Berry and Chadwick, Ken Ford, Frank Millspaugh, and June
Makela. "Others," he added, "are not in this inner circle -- like Jewelle
[Taylor-Gibbs], and some are afraid to say: some of this stuff is just
Mr. Robinson asked me who else I'd talked to, and I told him, and described the ending of my conversation with Ken Ford. Robinson answered, "Yeah well that's Ken."
Mr. Robinson continued, "Yeah, he's said that to a number of people -- he's told people to fuck off, that they should get a life."
Mr. Robinson offered an apology on the behalf of Pacifica Foundation.
Bill Lucy -- an "at-large" member of the Board, which means he was nominated by an existing Board member, was described by Rob Robinson as "very close to Mary Frances Berry."
Mr. Lucy is an executive of a major union organization. I asked him the same question -- what was his understanding about the reasons for and the timing of the decision to hire the two security firms. He launched instead into a passionate statement about the "horrendous" treatment that the Board members have been subjected to. I asked him to tell me about this. He reiterated the general statement several times; I aced again for some examples. Mr. Lucy then told me that he was "accosted" at a meeting in Sacramento that had nothing to do with Pacific, and was verbally abused. Were there other incidents, I asked. He didn't answer, so I asked again, and about other Board members -- what has happened to them? He paused, and then asnwered, "The Board really feels very strongly about their Board responsibilities -- they don't profess to be all geniuses."
I acknowledged this, and then asked again -- what kind of abuse were the Board members being subjected to. Mr. Lucy answered that he didn't want to go in to that. "But you've made such a point of it -- and you're the first who's mentioned this to me -- I certainly haven't read about it anywhere," I said, and then described my conversation with Ken Ford. "Well, he's been subjected to a lot," Mr. Lucy retorted. "Like what?" "Just a lot." Mr. Lucy then told me that he has reached a point in his life where he doesn't try to improve the character of other people.
I told Mr. Lucy that I was concerned -- Board members shouldn't be abused, but that if Mr. Ford can't behave more civilly perhaps he should get off the Board. Mr. Lucy took great offense at this, and several times declared that he, Bill Lucy, wasn't going to resign because of the events in Sacramento. I finally convinced him -- I think -- that I hadn't said he, Bill Lucy should resign. But I went on to say that neither did I think that three incidents of "verbal harangue" (his words), albeit unfortunate, constituted "horrendous abuse". I asked him again to tell me -- he really did sound distressed. Finally he said, "I withdraw the point."
This caught me a bit by surprise, and I said "hey, you can't do that --
come on -- you've really made this point to me, and I'm genuinely
"I get calls at home..I get email." That was all he would say on the subject.
I asked him if he thought this was just a labor-management dispute, or just a power struggle between Chadwick and Sawaya. No he didn't. Had he known about Sawaya' he answered, "her contract wasn't renewed." "Other Board members have used the word 'firing'". Mr Lucy then said, "I have no idea what prompted that."
"No idea at all?" I asked
Then Mr. Lucy had to board his plane and offered to try to call me back to continue the conversation . Unfortunately I had to leave my office, and missed his call, from the airplane. Bill Lucy is at least willing to talk, but he seems extremely wounded at this point, and really outraged at the protesters -- his last words before offering to call me back were to say that the "other side" needs to "back off a bit".
Jewelle Taylor-Gibbs -- I believe that Dr. Taylor-Gibbs was nominated by fellow Board member Pete Bramson when he was still part of the LAB that includes KPFA.
I reached Dr. Gibbs early Saturday evening, and she said she really didn't want to talk, there was nothing that I could say that would change her mind, she had decided to resign from the Board.
We spoke for just a few minutes -- she was distraught. I told her I didn't have anything I wanted to say so much as questions I wanted to ask her. She told me she had just returned from South Africa the day before, that she probably didn't know anything, and that "this is just in an intractable position...it's a very sad situation."
She repeated the phrase "an intractable position -- both sides" and then asked to be let alone.
Pete Bramson -- member nominated from a fairly long tenure on the LAB that includes KPFA, Bramson describes himself as "new to the National Board."
When I asked Mr. Bramson about the how/when/why of the decisions about the guards, he answered, "There was a thought to protect the license." He went on to say that the Berkeley police had said they couldn't provide round the clock security. "There was a feeling on the Board," he said, "that we have to maintain the airwaves...the security was there to protect the airwaves."
He went on to say that he "support[s] non-disclosure...the gag order is correct...it works in a number of industries. How it's enforced is tricky. Lynn [Chadwick] managed this very poorly."
I asked Bramson if he thought that it might be at all inappropriate for KPFA, given its history, to invoke a gag order -- and also suggested that KPFA staffers' violations of the gag order might be protected under the Unruh Act. He acknowledged that yes, KPFA wasn't just a typical news media outlet; he hadn't heard of the Unruh Act, but thought it sounded interesting.
Then he went back to the question about the security decisions. "Obviously there are racial issues, obviously shots were fired, and faced with the situation at the Board meeting, with staff members saying 'this Board hasn't supported them' -- well, you could see the change at the Board level."
I told Mr. Bramson of the comment by Rob Robinson, that Lynn Chadwick had "staged" that in order, perhaps, to manipulate the Board. Bramson didn't second the word "staged" but simply said that the Board had obviously been very strongly influenced by what the staffers said. He also told me that he understood that Jeffrey Blankford had issued an apology.
I asked: if these threats were so serious, that they influenced the Board to upgrade the security from unarmed to armed-and-sophisticated (i.e. Ipsa) then why hadn't they disciplined Blankford, or even brought charges against him? Why punish the entire staff of KPFA -- were there suspicions that other KPFA staffers were involved in the abuse?
No, he said, and returned to the theme of "protecting the license...there
was a secondary 're-up' -- switching to the new security company -- after
it was reported to the Board that Dennis Bernstein had allowed in 300
guests". (Once the first guards were hired, Bramson told me, Chadwick
imposed a rule that programmers could have just one guest at a time inside
I asked,. "'It was reported to the Board' -- who reported this?"
"It was reported to the Board by Lynn Chadwick," Bramson answered.
I hadn't heard about the 300 guests, so I asked Bramson if it had been reported anywhere else. Not that he knew, he said. The Board learned of this alleged security violation through Chadwick and as a result of this plus the testimony of the Pacifica staffers decided to hire a different security company. Bramson told me he thought "the guards should be placed in front of Pacifica... KPFA said 'we don't need security'".
Bramson then told me that at the June Board meeting in Washington, D.C., he had made a motion for a vote of "no confidence" in both Lynn Chadwick and Mary Frances Berry. He said that he has had questions for quite a while about Lynn Chadwick's "vision and her financial acumen."
"Her financial acumen?" I was surprised. "Wasn't she the head of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters for years? Surely she had major financial responsibility there?"
Mr. Bramson said he didn't remember Chadwick's background in detail --
Lynn had been with the NFCB when they moved their offices from Washington
D.C. to San Francisco.
"That's an odd move," I said.
Bramson paused, and then said he hadn't thought about that, but that on reflection it did seem odd for a national association whose purpose is to lobby Congress and other Washington-based organizations to move its headquarters from Washington, D.C. three thousand miles away. (A note to readers/listeners -- does anyone know about this? It is curious.)
Bramson didn't remember much about Chadwick's background, just that she had come to Pacifica from her position at NFCB to provide an "acting" role. Then, when the candidate selected by the Board after a Korn Ferry search declined an offer that Bramson admitted was a low-ball offer, Chadwick just seemed the logical next choice.
I was still interested in Bramson's concerns about Chadwick's ability to manage the finances of Pacifica -- were they much more complicated or demanding that NFCB? Bramson didn't know -- he didn't know much about Chadwick's role there, nor how she had gone from a single-program director at WPFW in Washington DC to the head of the national organization. (Again -- does anyone know?)
Pete Bramson was quite new to the National Board when the "search" for Pat Scott's replacement was being conducted, but he was disturbed by Lynn Chadwick's management style fairly quickly. He has met with her privately several times over the past year to discuss his concerns, but hasn't seen any response, and his concerns have escalated to the point of his offering the motion for a vote of "no confidence" three weeks ago.
Bramson has also been disturbed by Mary Frances Berry's ability and
willingness, in his view, to intimidate people. He, Pete Bramson, is not
intimidated, he told me, but one could easily be intimidated.
"How? What's her style" I asked.
"She's very professional, very clipped...she's shortened meetings that used to last four or five hours to two hours...she's very proud...and [the result is one] could easily be intimidated. Some people are. If [Board Chair Berry] would step down, it would be a great day."
What else? I asked -- is it just her style?
"There is a decision-making process that doesn't involve me and some others on the Board," Bramson answered. "There is a flow to the decision-making that I don't trust. And the  Strategic Plan has been used as a shield. There is an undercurrent that says that all of Pacifica's actions can be interpreted in light of this Plan. But there is a perception [on the part of the LABs] that there wasn't input from the local boards into the Strategic Plan."
Bramson ended by discussing the challenges that were facing KPFA and all community radio stations before the recent conflagrations -- and he seems genuinely interested in trying to solve these through an interactive process with the local groups -- not through a top-down, dictatorial management style. He told me he deeply regrets his "yes" vote for the bylaws changes [allowing the national board to select its new members] last year.
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