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.
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.
I have been following the recent events of the Pacifica radio network with great interest and even greater concern — even sadness. I am reading far too much misinformation — a thousand sparks, a million splinters, far too much “me-me-me,” no “we.”
I was the Executive Director of Pacifica before the latest appointee, Summer Reese. Though I had years of experience in radio in various capacities, I came to Pacifica as an outsider, and it is from that perspective, as an outsider turned insider, that I am writing. Pacifica is not only failing, it is nearly moribund. The most recent episode unfortunately illustrates this point only too well.
Nine members of the Pacifica Foundation’s board of directors opposing last month’s firing of executive director Summer Reese filed a lawsuit Thursday asking the court to void the action and reinstate her. Calling themselves the Pacifica Board Members for Good Governance, the group filed a civil lawsuit in the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda. According to the lawsuit, Reese’s March 14 firing violated Pacifica’s bylaws and was “improper, unlawful and fiscally reckless.”
Named in the lawsuit are the board members who voted for Reese’s removal, including Chairwoman Margy Wilkinson and Vice Chairman Tony Norman. The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages, only the overturning of the board’s decision and the immediate reinstatement of Reese. The Pacifica board voted in executive session to dismiss Reese, who was appointed permanent executive director of the network last November after holding the job on an interim basis.
• The standoff at Pacifica’s headquarters in Berkeley, Calif., got coverage on a local news program on Oakland’s KTVU. Executive Director Summer Reese is defying the board’s efforts to dismiss her and has camped out at the office, with supporters and even her mother in tow. Watch KTVU’s video and see the barricaded door, an air mattress used by the holed-up staff, and more trappings of this unusual episode. The report also features Pacifica Board Chair Margy Wilkinson, who is trying to fire Reese. Wilkinson alleges that at some point employees were shredding documents, which Reese denies in an oddly clipped statement in the segment.
• Filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz (The Graduates/Los Graduados, Reportero) has received the Time Warner Fellowship from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program to work on his latest doc, Recolectores (The Gatherers). As a fellow, Ruiz will get services from the institute including mentoring, grant assistance and attendance at its famous film festival. Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing) also got a production/post-production grant in this round of Sundance awards, which went to 35 filmmakers out of 750 applications from 93 countries. • Sesame Workshop is participating in this week’s annual Reinvent The Toilet Fair: India, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation event that showcases the latest in modern hygiene for developing nations. Making her debut at the fair is new Muppet Raya, who always wears her sandals to the latrine and washes her hands with soap.