Restraining order seeks to block Pacifica’s overhaul of WBAI

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A New York State Supreme Court judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday barring the Pacifica Foundation from laying off staff at WBAI and changing the station’s programming. 

The decision came the same day that Pacifica announced layoffs at its station in New York City due to financial troubles. It replaced WBAI’s regular programming starting Monday morning with a feed of syndicated shows and content from other Pacifica stations. 

The temporary restraining order prevents Pacifica from terminating employees; seizing WBAI’s property, equipment and offices; and interfering with WBAI’s programming and “the orderly administration of the business and affairs” of the station, according to the court document. 

The petition was filed by the chair of WBAI’s board, station producers, a contributor and two members of Pacifica’s national board. It argues that Pacifica violated its bylaws when it “seized control of the station in the middle of the night, padlocked the doors, and took the WBAI programming off the air” without a vote by Pacifica’s board. The complaint also claimed that Pacifica’s actions violated New York’s not-for-profit corporation law. 

The petitioners asked the court to permanently bar Pacifica from laying off the station’s employees and changing its programming. Pacifica will have an opportunity to respond to the petitioners’ request at an Oct. 18 hearing.

Despite the order, an attorney representing the petitioners told Gothamist Tuesday that Pacifica is still controlling the station’s broadcast. Representatives of Pacifica and WBAI could not be reached for comment on whether WBAI’s staff has returned to work.

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