Radio network’s permanent executive director remains in limbo

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After years of financial and managerial crises, Pacifica Foundation Radio — a national listener-sponsored radio network with a local station in Berkeley — will soon see an interim executive director step down and another step up.

This week, Bernard Duncan, the current interim executive director of Pacifica, announced he will be leaving his position July 5. Current chair Margy Wilkinson is slated to replace Duncan in accordance with Pacifica bylaws.

Three months ago, Duncan’s predecessor, Summer Reese, garnered national attention when she occupied Pacifica’s headquarters in Downtown Berkeley from March to May after refusing to accept the termination of her employment.

Reese was slapped with a temporary restraining order, and the court upheld the board’s decision to remove her from the position.

But now, with Duncan moving to New Zealand, Wilkinson said she does not wish to fill the role because she lacks the experience and desire to run a media network.

“I am not personally ambitious. I am not looking for a job. I am a retired grandmother of five,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson believes that Reese’s occupation of Pacifica’s national headquarters kept the national board from appointing a new interim executive director because the board could not operate as effectively as possible. She said the process of finding a new executive director to replace Reese would have moved along faster had Reese not occupied headquarters.

Board members at Pacifica’s local station KPFA also held strong opinions regarding the national board’s management upheaval.

Former KPFA local board member Sasha Futran said the absence of an elections supervisor delayed the national board’s search for a permanent executive director, for which she blamed Reese.

At the same time, Reese alleged that Wilkinson and her supporters on the board of directors were interested in “dismantling the organization” and “enriching” KPFA over other member stations.
“(Wilkinson) has no knowledge of basic functions. It’s a joke,” Reese said. “They are going to eat the rest of the network like a cannibal.”

Don Goldmacher, a member of the KPFA’s local board, said after Reese’s termination, a minority of the national board that supports Reese engaged in a “wide variety of obstruction tactics.”

Wilkinson and Futran said the national board recently adopted new rules in order to prevent members from “obstructing” the progress of board meetings. These new rules mandate that only 20 minutes can be spent discussing the agenda and also place limitations on how long people can speak and the number of speakers allowed at meetings.

“Pacifica is a very important media institution in the United States, considering the lack of public broadcast media,” Reese said. “But its future is in tremendous jeopardy due to the actions of this current board.”

Despite the tug of war among members of the national board, Goldmacher predicts that there will be a new permanent executive director of Pacifica by end of the year.

Contact Sophie Mattson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MattsonSophie.