California attorney general launches audit of national radio network

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The California attorney general is conducting an audit of Pacifica Foundation Radio — a network of nonprofit radio stations headquartered in Berkeley — to investigate the foundation’s finances.

The audit includes requests for documents that encompass many of the organization’s financial and governance records. Pacifica has until Feb. 17 to provide the attorney general with the documents, according to Margy Wilkinson, the network’s national board chair and interim executive director.

“It’s a healthy exercise to look at all these things and have them examined,” Wilkinson said. “I have serious questions about what went on in the past (before I joined). It is a daunting task for us to get the materials requested but we’re going to do our very best to give the attorney general everything she’s requested.”

The audit comes after a year of controversy, in which Pacifica’s former executive director Summer Reese was fired and occupied the national headquarters for about two months and a coalition of national board members launched unsuccessful legal action against the termination. Although Reese’s supporters alleged that she was fired due to discrimination, some members of the board cited her mismanagement of the organization as reason for the dismissal.

The audit follows a complaint made in March by eight former board members to the California attorney general. The complaint outlines concerns about the organization’s recent hiring and firings, bookkeeping and accountability, including an allegation that Reese was fired at a board meeting without advance notice or all members being present.

However, the attorney general’s office did not disclose why it initiated the audit.

According to Wilkinson, after Reese and her supporters left the headquarters office in May following the court’s granting of a temporary restraining order, some records were missing and others were in disarray.

“We’ve been trying to sort our way through what is essentially chaos,” Wilkinson said.

The audit will greatly affect Pacifica’s stations if it results in the revocation of their licences, according to Carole Travis, chair of the local station board for KPFA. The licenses, Travis said, are very valuable because they allow the stations to broadcast over larger areas than would be allowed under a new license.

“(Pacifica is) a very precious and important network and that’s why many people are really trying hard to meet all the requirements and see to it that we stay alive,” Travis said.

The audit as well as Pacifica’s financial situation are set to be discussed this week at a Thursday meeting.

Contact Sonja Hutson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson.