An Alameda County, Calif., judge has upheld her previous ruling that the Pacifica Foundation’s board of directors acted within its bounds when it fired Executive Director Summer Reese earlier this year. Judge Ioana Petrou made the ruling Monday, a day before both Reese and the board were to appear in court to argue the matter. In her opinion, Petrou wrote that based on her earlier ruling, the board would likely prevail and that reversing the decision would cause “great harm.” Petrou gave Reese and her legal team until 5 p.m. Pacific time Monday to contest the ruling. A permanent injunction went into effect when the order was not challenged.
Houston Pacifica station KPFT-FM is preparing to ask the FCC for a third extension on its license renewal, a delay resulting from transmitter damage caused by a lightning strike two years ago. The station, part of the financially troubled Pacifica network, has been struggling to raise funds to replace the transmitter. It has operated at half power since March 2012 and is pursuing its third Special Temporary Authority from the FCC. By failing to operate at full power for so long, the station puts itself at risk of FCC fines. KPFT General Manager Duane Bradley said the internal divisions plaguing Pacifica aren’t helping.
Summer Reese, former executive director of the Pacifica Foundation, was ordered to vacate the network’s headquarters Monday after an Alameda County Superior Court judge sided with the majority of the Pacifica board who fired her in March. Reese’s continued occupation of Pacifica’s national office “constitutes trespass and a nuisance,” wrote Judge Ioana Petrou in her ruling. Petrou ordered that Reese leave Pacifica’s headquarters immediately, as her presence there was impeding the foundation from conducting its normal business. “The Court finds that the current situation is not only far from ideal, but completely untenable,” Petrou wrote. After Pacifica’s board voted March 14 to dismiss Reese, she questioned the validity of the firing and broke into the foundation’s headquarters with a team of supporters.
As Pacifica Radio marked its 65th anniversary of broadcasting, foundation and station leaders are talking publicly about governance reforms that involve “decentralizing” control of its five stations. Pacifica National Board Chair Margy Wilkinson, who is battling for control of the Foundation with former executive director Summer Reese, discussed the proposal April 9 on KPFK-FM, the Pacifica station in Los Angeles. “There are real governance issues,” Wilkinson said during an appearance on the KPFK show Truthdig. “I think the way the foundation is put together does not make for a very highly functioning organization.”
Though she didn’t wade into specifics, Wilkinson called for “some decentralization and some greater autonomy at the local stations.”
“I see a role for Pacifica, but I think right now, the way national is functioning is not particularly helpful to the stations,” Wilkinson said. The proposal to reduce Pacifica’s control over local stations has support in Houston, where leaders of Pacifica’s KPFT have called for greater independence.
The ongoing standoff over Pacifica’s leadership reached the California courts last week, opening what could become a protracted legal battle over the Pacifica Foundation board of directors’ decision to fire executive director Summer Reese. Reese, who has defied the board’s March 14 vote to fire her and taken up residence in Pacifica headquarters in Berkeley, filed a civil lawsuit in Alameda County, seeking a restraining order to reverse the board’s decision. During an April 9 hearing, Superior Court Judge Ioana Petrou denied the request by Reese and her supporters for a temporary restraining order on procedural grounds. Petrou will rule May 6 on Reese’s request for a temporary injunction to stay the board’s decision. “I wasn’t surprised by the decision, a temporary restraining order is a high bar and this is a complex case,” said Amy Sommer Anderson, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, Pacifica Directors for Good Governance.