by Paul DeRienzo
Andrea Cisco also claims that she was the victim of a devastating hacker attack that wiped out major files on her hard drive including "design and confidential client information." Cisco says that when a firewall was placed on her computer the traces of hacking software were discovered and it was discovered that executive session minutes of the PNB had been "pulled off." Cisco admits being emotionally drained by the Pacifica conflict. The personal attacks were among the worst she says, adding that the September 11th attacks were "foreshadowed by the terrorists who entered my life."
Unfortunately the "terrorists" were also some of Ciscos former colleagues who were also her neighbors. She recounts how WBAI LAB member Mimi Rosenberg who lives across the street would scream invectives out her window against Cisco. Bernard White, now WBAIs Program Director lives on the same block as well. She says they prompted some of her neighbors to post signs with "disgusting things about me," Cisco claims the signs perpetrated lies about "how I sold out the neighborhood." Cisco says she eventually "just got sick and tired of it."
Former Pacifica Executive Director Bessie Wash has some of the most damning criticisms of her successors who she maintains are unqualified to lead the Pacifica Foundation. Wash says that the lawsuits brought by the various groups aligned against the PNB were "devastating to the foundation." Wash maintains that since the iPNB took full control of Pacifica there has been a "total bloodbath of managers," Wash asks, "what qualifies Dan Coughlin to be Executive Director? What did Assistant Executive Director Verna Avery Brown manage before?"
Wash says that she was most surprised by Amy Goodmans attacks Goodman was a friend who often played with Washs two children when visiting in Washington. Wash adds that shes been reluctant to discuss her charges of harassment and malfeasance by Goodman and the Pacifica Campaign. Referring to the iPNB she maintains that the "current administration has no concern at all of libeling the Foundation, I do."
Goodmans role at WBAI is at the center of the controversy. Wash says that Goodman was part of national programming staff and was not supposed to have a management role. "In my tenure," she says, "there was no legal reason for Amy to have check writing power." But Wash asserts she had been told check writing by Goodman "had occurred" and that there was "something set up between Amy Goodman and Valerie Van Isler." Wash adds that Van Isler gave her assurances that while Goodman had written checks in the past that it was no longer happening.
But Wash complains that despite Van Islers assurances Goodman continued a "definite influence on what checks were written." Wash claims that Goodman would "raise money for specific things and checks were written to cover those things," she says, putting the Foundations broadcast licenses at risk. According to Wash there is ample proof of her charges "in the records," and that "investigations were made and certain things were discovered." She says, "accountants have been concerned about the fund raising practices and whether funds had been laundered through WBAI, that money was raised in the name of WBAI and used to pay people for things other than what they were supposed to be doing." Wash repeats adamantly that "the things Ive said are a matter of record."
Wash also describes some of the personal attacks she suffered. A complaint shared by many Pacifica staffers during he past year is the gutter level racial slurs thrown around by some of the dissident groups and their supporters. Wash adds that the attacks didnt stop at racism but included "phone calls, death threats and threatening emails." On one occasion she was followed in her car while driving with her two small children and that she was so fearful that she had to pull over shaking in fright.
Wash continues to be concerned about the future of the Pacifica Foundation. "The current Board has no plan for the Foundation," she says, "they dont even have a fund raising goal." The Foundation by-laws require a budget but Wash asks, "where is it?" Wash says ominously that the iPNB is "not complying with fiduciary policies and procedures."
Wash is particularly worried about the iPNBs recent decision returning the Pacifica national office to Berkeley from its current home in Washington DC. Wash wants to know "what happened to the 50 to 80,000 dollars in equipment and costs to move from California to DC." There was a "huge amount of money invested in the move," adds Wash. "Then they lay off people," she continues incredulously, "where are the resources going to be found" to make the move back to the California. Wash is referring to the recent lay off of the Pacifica Network News staff and others as a cost-cutting move by the iPNB.
Wash insists that the move to DC was carefully thought out and that the decision was made in the 1980s when Congress was actively trying to cut the Corporation for Public Broadcastings funding of Pacifica after a series of controversial programs were aired. The move to DC was an attempt to co-locate the financial office, which was in Los Angeles, with the national office, which had been in the same building as KPFA in Berkeley. Wash says that the three hour time difference between the east and west coasts was undermining the Foundations ability to respond quickly to events in DC, where the CPB and Congress are located.
Wash sums up her feelings with a hint of ridicule of the iPNBs efforts, she says, "the only thing they can do is accuse the former Board, although many of the iPNB members were also members of the old Board," now she adds, "they say they knew nothing about it."
Michael Palmer was a PNB member until he resigned in May of 2001, he says he left because of the escalating personal attacks and threats that were being made against him. Palmer supports Bessie Washs assertion that members of the iPNB, who had also been members of the old Board, had voted to comply with the CPBs rule prohibiting Local Advisory Board members from voting on the Foundations national board. Palmer mentions PNB member Pete Bramson (an appointee of the KPFA LAB) as the first Board member to threaten lawsuits against the PNB, even though Bramson had originally voted to comply with the CPB rules. Bramsons break with the PNB came in a speech several months later when he accused PNB member Acosta of trying to sell KPFA. A charge roundly denied by Acosta, Mary Francis Berry, Bessie Wash and every member of the PNB so far interviewed.
Palmer says it was soon after Bramson started speaking out against the PNB that he started getting email threats. He says he got used to deleting them but then the threats started escalating to phone calls at early morning hours, "2, 3, 4 in the morning." According to Palmer the callers whose numbers couldnt be traced contained messages including, "well kill you, well get you, you get out of here." Palmer says he began to get one caller in particular "identifying himself only as "Pacifica Campaign" asking him repeatedly to resign. The caller would become increasingly belligerent threatening that "well see you in the street and well get you."
Palmer describes how the telephone and email harassment kept escalating into an "email and voicemail deal" to overwhelm the mail of the head of the company where Palmer works. Palmer says his immediate boss had actually gotten to know the Pacifica issues and promised to run interference, but when the attacks targeted the CEO word came down for Palmer to "bug out." Palmer says he hopes that the settlement agreement isnt overturned because as an original defendant in the dissident lawsuits against the PNB he would be dragged back into the case. He says his wife would never allow him to get involved in Pacifica politics again.
Former WBAI General Manager Utrice Leid charges the dissident group with conducting "a campaign of terror." She says "they targeted people throughout the network," with "smears and death threats, pretending they had nothing to do with it." Leid asserts that the truth is "a small group of out-of-control people wanted control." Leid calls the dissidents seizure of power at Pacifica "a putsch" and "a bloodletting." In particular Leid points to what she calls the "public lynching of Bob Daughtry,*" who was General Manager at WBAI for several months after Leid was promoted to the national office. The firing was broadcast live on all five Pacifica stations during the January 12, 2002 iPNB meeting. John Murdock (A debate between John Murdoch and Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez) is another former Board member who says Daughtrys on air firing was "absolutely outrageous." The motion terminating him was introduced by the "WBAI Committee," an organization within the iPNB that includes chair Leslie Cagan, other Board members and five anonymous members of WBAIs Local Advisory Board.
Daughtry, a long time Pacifica employees based at WPFA in Washington DC says Pacifica is currently being run by the same people who "got the network into trouble." He says "they have high expectations but they cant reach people." He adds that the current programming is "insular, preaching to the choir" and based on an "inside language, thats "not going to go very far" in winning over a mass audience.
Cagan says her goal is to establish a new system at Pacifica that gives management responsibilities to each LAB, including final say on all hiring, firing and program decisions. One of the first motions made by the shadowy WBAI Committee was to demand the decertification of WBAI staff who voted to become part of AFTRA. One point of the motion passed by the iPNB in January specifically stated the Boards intent to provide time for workers to select "a new union." This led AFTRA Assistant Executive Director Ken Greene to charge that Pacifica was "committing unfair labor practices." These firings and other actions that seemed to be targeting Pacificas unionized employees are in direct conflict with an order by the California judge, who worked out the settlement agreement that brought in the iPNB, that there be no "bloodbaths" aimed at Pacifica employees associated with the former regime.
Leid lays out a litany of improper dealings that she puts at the feet of Amy Goodman and Bernard White. She says, "I believe Amy Goodman routinely processed press credentials for New York press license plates. Press plates allow working reporters avoid parking tickets. Leid says White sent a letter to the Department of Motor Vehicles asking that DMV to replace Goodmans name with his own as the official contact person at WBAI so that he could get working press plates.
White has come under repeated criticism for allegedly holding down a management position as Program Director while receiving a salary as an host on his morning show, Wake Up Call. White wasnt a reporter in the WBAI news department and the procedures for getting a press pass from the NYPD clearly require the News Director to sign for each press credential. The WBAI News Director is Jose Santiago, neither White nor Goodman had the position or authority to sign for NYPD press credentials.
In another press credential fiasco, according to Leid, Goodman gave presidential candidate Ralph Nader her own press pass at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, which Leid says caused the RNC and the Democratic National Committee to cancel credentials for everyone at Pacifica. When KPFT manager Garland Gantner criticized Goodman she attacked Gantner claiming she had done nothing wrong.
The problems between Pacifica Foundation managers and Goodman may have began with an argument over the rights to broadcast excerpts from Arrianna Huffingtons Shadow Convention during the Presidential nominating conventions in the summer of 2000. Veteran programmer Marc Cooper, a major programmer at KPFK, was enraged when Goodman allegedly broadcast the excerpts on Democracy Now, because rights to the taping had been granted exclusively to KPFK. Cooper accused Goodman of stealing information. One source says, "fucking with rights can damage relationships."
An incident concerning National Public Radio producer Davis Isay illustrates how Goodman was alienating her colleagues. When Isay was putting together his Prison Diaries, which included recordings of actual executions, at US prisons, he appeared on Democracy Now. During the program Goodman asked Isay "why arent they running your stuff on All Things Considered?" Isays producer speculated that it was because NPR feared its underwriters would pull their support. The real reason was that Isay couldnt come to terms with NPR over how to technically portray the material. A former NPR associate says Goodman could have met with the NPR ombudsmen without going public with her attacks and that although Isay has kept quiet about the incident, he was not happy or supportive of Goodmans outburst.
According to a source Goodmans friction with NPR goes back to an incident in the early 1990s. After Goodman had returned from reporting for Pacifica in East Timor she became enraged when NPR told her the story she wanted to file was "commentary not news." She reportedly stormed into NPR VP Bill Buzenbergs office and in a screaming tirade directed at his staff, Goodman demanded NPR run her story. A source says thats why "Amy Goodman will never work for NPR."
At WBAI Utrice Leid accuses Goodman of improper and possibly illegal hiring practices. Involving Deepa Fernandez. According to Leid, Fernandez was not authorized to work in the United States, but Goodman tried to get Pacifica to sponsor Fernandez to work at Democracy Now, although there were qualified US citizens available to do the job, a serious violation of immigration laws. Eventually Leid says Fernandez was hired when Goodman got Van Isler to pay Fernandez. Leid asserts that "there could have been serious trouble with the INS."
Leid also claims she was the target of intense personal attacks and harassment. She says WBAI producer Mimi Rosenberg "kicked me and called me a fucking bitch," and that she was constantly followed by two women Leid calls her "personal stalkers," one of whom always carried a video camera. She says one of them came into her office and had to be "kicked out." Leids home was also picketed.
But Leid saves most of her vitriol for what she calls Goodmans attack on Pacifica program director Steve Yaskos gay sexuality. Leid says Goodman falsely accused Yasko of "misogynistic" behavior, charges that were fully investigated and found "meritless." Adding that Goodman made the charges against Yasko to run up Pacificas legal bill. She also says Goodman continued to bill Pacifica for Democracy Nows telephone and other expenses even after Goodman had removed the show from WBAI and was syndicating it on cable TV. Leid charges Goodman with trying to launch her own business, subsidized by Pacifica.
Steve Yasko says he would have sued his attackers if hed only knew who they were Similarly other Pacifica employees also report that many of the attacks on them were either anonymous or from people they didnt know. "The Pacifica Campaign portrayed me as something Im not, a child pornographer," Yasko continues, "They sent out an email to hundreds of public radio professionals and colleagues saying I was a sex purveyor." He describes one email that was mysteriously blind ccd to him that states "I need $2000 to finish the Yasko project." He says two more similar emails followed culminating in one that read, "I never hurt anyone, if youre interested in that kind of thing ask Juan, he has those contacts." Yasko says Robert Knight eventually admitted to him that he had sent the emails, Knight justified the messages by telling Yasko, "You dont know what a living hell my life is."
"They're zealots, I see parallels between this group and Al-Qaeda, the terrorists who bombed New York. They have an innate anger towards society as a whole."
--Ken Ford, commenting on the tactics of the Pacifica Campaign in the San Francisco Examiner Tuesday, October 23, 2001
Pacifica Campaign Press Release Dec. 10, 2001
In the 1990s, WBAI established itself as the largest and most successful station in the network. It recorded the first one million dollar on-air fundraising drive in community radio and, during the Fall quarter of Sept.-Dec. 2000, the station had the highest recorded listenership in its history, more than 200,000 listeners a week, the largest in the network..
WBAI Interim GM Indra Hardat at PNB meeting October 29, 2005
"Last year our paid listener base was about 21,000 paid members. This year it's shrunk to 17,000. Losing 4000 paid listeners in terms of money means that we'll always have to play catch-up, unless we do something really dramatic."
To: Pacifica Executive Director Bessie Wash and Board of Directors
On September 14, 1998 Robert Coonrod, then President and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting wrote Pat Scott, then Executive Director of the Pacifica Foundation. The memo warned that Pacifica's Community Advisor Boards shall in no case have any authority to excersise any control over daily management or operation of the station. He stated that "Failure to comply risks future CPB funding for any station." A few months later with the Pacifca National Board balking at the required bylaws changes needed to secure CPB funding the following memo was sent to Pacifica managers telling them to prepare for major budget cuts.
Pacifica opens KPFA's doors, staffers continue protest
According to Pete Bramson, Vice Chair David Acosta had proposed
that Pacifica take out a $5 million loan against the value of KPFA's license,
sell the station and with a small portion of the proceeds buy another
Northern California station, he said. On Friday, another board member,
Rabbi Aaron Krieger, iterated a somewhat fuzzier but similar account of
Acosta's plan during an appearance on KCRW, Los Angeles.
What I found most troubling about the period in Pacifica's
stormy history culminating in the change in the board through the lawsuit
settlement, was the extent to which large numbers of well meaning people
who professed to be committed to change, failed to take personal responsibility
to investigate charges and countercharges
Pacifica Foundation Interim Board of Directors meeting January 12, 2002 in NYC regarding the public firing of WBAI GM Robert Daughtry.(official transcript page 285-6)
MR. McCALL: And at this time number one, due to a succession
of actions that violated long-standing Pacifica policy undermining the
mission of the foundation, and in the case of the refusal to broadcast
Democracy Now since January 5, 2002, flagrantly defied explicit
AFTRA Assistant Executive Director Kenneth Green addressing the interim Pacifica National Board on January 13, 2001 (official transcript page 56-57)
MR. GREEN: I will set the record straight on the facts for the board. There has only been one period of time during our well over 20-year history with Pacifica in which there were labor management disputes that were in disarray and that was during the time that Dan Coughlin was the supervisor down there. He had a dismal labor record. I state this as fact. There is documentation supporting everything I say, to the extent to which management, the entire bargaining unit was ready to resign because of allegations of abusiveness, irresponsible actions taken on his part, arbitrary actions taken on his part, which were not supported. In fact, despite management telling Dan to undo the inappropriate things he did, he refused to do so and the executive director had to come down to the Pacifica office to override Dan Coughlin. I have never come across a manager as disrespectful to a union contract and disrespectful to its employees, and the record supports that.
Examples of Pacifica ignoring judicial orders.
Pacifica Foundation Settlement
g. The Interim Board shall exercise its powers with the
Pacifica Foundation Violates
a Judge's Order
Amy and the Picketline email posted on 4/27/01 by Pacifcamp@aol.com
IT has come to our attention the Amy Goodman, Bernard White and others involved in the reunion of WBAI's Morning Call Program crossed a picket line of union construction workers in order to perform their program last Saturday.
This is a slap in the face to all of us who believe organized labor is the bedrock of the Progressive Movement. Amy Goodman Crossing A Picket Line! How could you? Those people were protesting for better pay and other working conditions and you and all the other people involved with this event have no right to call yourself members in good standing of any union.
No money should be contributed to the Pacifica Campaign until this horrible action is fully explained.
Juan Gonzales responded along with WBAI programmer Mimi Rosenberg on the Pacifica Campaign web page.