Court places restraining order on recall election for local radio station

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The Alameda County Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order at a hearing Wednesday morning, instructing the Pacifica Foundation to sequester the ballots of Berkeley-based radio station KPFA’s recall election.

Ballots in the recall election — which began after KPFA members petitioned to recall elected Pacifica treasurer and KPFA board member Tracy Rosenberg — were originally planned to be opened and counted on Aug. 4. However, Rosenberg and her co-plaintiff, a KPFA member from Walnut Creek, filed a complaint with the court on July 31 due to supposed flaws with the recall election.

In response, the court issued a temporary restraining order to hold off counting the ballots and scheduled a full hearing for Sept. 10 regarding Rosenberg’s injunction request which, if granted, would mean the ballots will not be counted.

According to Rosenberg, the election violated the requirements of the foundation’s bylaws and the California Corporations Code by having a record date, or eligibility date, more than 240 days before the election date. The California Corporations Code states that an election’s record date cannot be more than 60 days before the election while the foundation’s bylaws state the date is 45 days or less.

Additionally, the early Nov. 2011 record date for a June 2012 election resulted in issues with ballot distributions. Current KPFA members, like Rosenberg’s co-plaintiff who joined KPFA after Nov. 2011, did not receive a ballot and could not vote while members with memberships ending by June 2012 did get to vote, according to Rosenberg.

“Many other people joined between November and May who should have received ballots but did not. You’re basically defranchising current members to send ballots to former members,” Rosenberg said. “That is, in my opinion, contrary to the law. We are suing on behalf of those people.”

But issues with the November 2011 record date should not have occurred, according to Margy Wilkinson, chair of the KPFA Local Station Board and a member of SaveKPFA, a coalition of KPFA listeners and unpaid and paid staff that works to support the radio station.

“Ballots were mailed out (in) June when they should have been mailed out by Dec. 30 last year and no later,” Wilkinson said. “The people who petitioned for a recall election did everything right. The fact of the matter is that the Pacifica national board dragged out the appeal. That is entirely their responsibility.”

According to Wilkinson, the election’s delay to June 2012 makes it impossible for the election to have a legitimate record date. The Pacifica national board recall procedures state that a recall election’s record date should be the certification date of the recall petition, which is Nov. 2011 for this particular election.

Consequently, it is difficult to hold an election that includes both former members who were supposed to vote in Dec. 2011 and current members, Wilkinson said.

“I believe in the broadest level of democracy. I would like everyone to have a chance to vote,” Wilkinson said. “However, I just don’t see any way that this could be possible.”

According to Rosenberg, holding a recall election has already cost Pacifica about $20,000 to $30,000. She also added that her term will be up soon, so SaveKPFA pursuing another election should the injunction be granted would only unreasonably further costs.

“This recall election is getting insanely expensive,” she said. “As a non-profit foundation, Pacifica can not afford to spend unlimited money on having recall elections. And my term is up in a year and a half anyways.”

Though SaveKPFA member and longtime KPFA listener member Mark Spindler acknowledged the cost of recall elections, he said KPFA members have a right to pursue a recall election when necessary.

“We believe KPFA is going in the wrong direction as the result of mismanagement and poor leadership … of specifically Tracy Rosenberg,” Spindler said. “She needs to be held accountable for what she has done, and this recall election is the vehicle for that.”

Spindler also pointed out that Pacifica has spent much more money in its attempts to stop a recall election.

“The question should be why is Pacifica teaming with anti-union attorneys and law firms and using over $60,000 of donations to try get rid of the union represented workers of KPFA,” he said.