WBAI LSB Meeting — March 21, 2007
The fifty eighth WBAI Local Station Board (LSB) meeting was held on Wednesday, March 21, 2007, at 7:00 PM in the 2nd floor art gallery of the Harlem State office Building on 125th St. in Manhattan. This is not an official Web page of the LSB.
This meeting had generated controversy before it even began.
The forces of the faction currently in charge at WBAI had announced that they were going to hold an executive session of the LSB right after the public portion of this meeting. Well, there were two problems with that. This was an adjourned meeting and the four officers, who had called this executive session, did not have the power to amend the agenda on their own, and the Pacifica Bylaws state that notice of the executive session must precede the meeting at which the executive session will happen, and this means more than 7 days' notice. The faction posted notice on the WBAI Web site less than 2 days before the meeting.
This meeting started 22 minutes late. It could have started a lot earlier but once again the faction currently in charge didn't have a majority and the Chair didn't want to start the meeting even though we had a quorum in the meeting room. Eventually the meeting was begun when the faction constituted half the LSB members in the room. After a while they attained a majority when another of their members showed up.
The Chair announced that we were waiting for the public address system to arrive and that the executive session had been called to satisfy Patty Heffley's stated desire to see the comments producers had made on the survey regarding the Program Director's performance. These surveys had been collected on December 9, 2005, and had been the subject of several attempts to allow LSB members to look at them. The faction currently in charge had always voted down any attempts to look at the surveys. Patty Heffley, who was not at this meeting, had said that she had never asked for an executive session and that it was not necessary to have an executive session of the LSB for her to look at the producers' comments.
Whatever the faction had been trying to pull with this executive session Patty Heffley had burst that bubble. And I raised the point of order that the executive session would have been illegal anyway. The Chair then said that the executive session would have been a separate LSB meeting! Well, they can't pull that sort of bullshit either. In any case, they relented and the executive session was not even attempted.
The agenda that carried over from the previous meeting didn't have a provision for setting the next LSB meeting. How to proceed actually got the Chair and her faction a little confused so I made the simple motion that we amend the agenda to put setting the next meeting date right after public comment and before New Business. A simple motion, and it passed without objection.
In the previous meeting we'd skipped the interim General Manager Robert Scott Adams' report because he hadn't been there. He was at this meeting so we had him report.
The interim General Manager said that he wasn't really prepared to report but that the Winter 'thon had been good and it had made its goal. He said that it so far had a 62% fulfillment rate and he was told that this was good. He also reported that the station was in the process of creating an events calendar for the WBAI Web site and that this would be in place by the end of the month.
He said that on March 31, WBAI would be having a speaking event featuring Ward Churchill, who's become infamous for calling the people murdered in the 9/11 attacks “little Eichmans.” The interim General Manager said that WBAI hadn't sold a lot of tickets yet and asked for the LSB members to help.
He also reported that he was in the process of “reorganizing” the WBAI Operations Department Staff so that they can better train the Staff, especially the Unpaid Staff.
I opened the question and answer portion of this report by asking about the 'thon numbers. I noted that the goal had been stated as $1,000,000 before the 'thon and that the final tally posted on WBAI's Web site had been $941,154, so how had we met the 'thon's goal?
The interim General Manager said that the $1,000,000 goal had been for the inclusion of 3 extra pitching days in December 2006, but that since that 3 day 'thon hadn't happened they'd lowered the goal. He said that Pacifica Chief Financial Officer Lonnie Hicks had lowered the goal to $900,000. Unfortunately I didn't get to follow up and ask why he'd reported the goal as $1,000,000 in his report to the PNB on January 27, 2007, when the 'thon was at about the midway point and December was a month in the past.
Jamie Ross then asked about the final tally, noting that although about $941,000 had been claimed as the final tally on the WBAI Web site the documents given out at the recent WBAI LSB Finance Committee meeting showed the final tally as being about $872,000. The interim General Manager said that he didn't know why there were different numbers but he would look into it.
Mr. Ross then asked about a violent incident at WBAI which had been reported as having occurred the day before this LSB meeting.
The interim General Manager didn't seem to really want to get into this, but he did say that a Staff member and someone else had gotten into “a wrestling match” at the station and that someone will be reprimanded for it.
Reports from some Staff eyewitnesses said that blood was drawn during this incident and that it was not as minor as the interim General Manager seemed to think it was.
Bob Lederer asked when the Development Director would be hired. The interim General Manager said that would occur before tax day, meaning April 16th.
Ray Laforest asked how long the 'thon had been. The interim General Manager said that it had gone on for 27 days, but that the Staff had prepared some things ahead of time this time and the 'thon had been held to a lower number of premiums than has been the case previously. He said that it went smoother than usual and that for the Spring 'thon he wants to involve more Paid and Unpaid Staff and the LSB. He wants the Spring 'thon to be only about 20 days long.
Mitchel Cohen said that at the Finance Committee meeting a week before Mr. Adams had said that he'd found it hard getting things done at the station and that he hadn't been able to get a copy of WBAI's lease. The interim General Manager said that he had since gotten a copy of the lease and that he'd been told that in Pacifica it took a long time to get things done. He said that things tend to not start on time, witness this meeting. Touché!
Berthold Reimers then got into the question of promoting WBAI's Ward Churchill event on March 31.
The Chair then inexplicably called on that crazy guy known as Gary from Staten Island! This is the guy who had disrupted the February 7th, LSB meeting and had to be ejected by the security guards. This nut began to say that a Staff member had attacked him at WBAI and demanded that the Staff member be fired.
Mitchel Cohen noted that the Staff member being attacked was not a member of the LSB and that it was unfair to allow him to be attacked in this way, he wanted this Gary nut ruled out of order. The Chair said that while LSB members were constrained about what they could say about Staff members of the public were not.
This Gary from Staten Island character had come up to WBAI several times over the past few months pasting crazy screeds on the walls and windows of the radio station against various Staff and in favor of the repressive policies of the so-called People's Republic of China.
A couple of weeks earlier he had invaded the station, despite being banned, and had been pounding on the windows of Master Control while a program was live on the air. An Operations Department person intercepted him as he tried to force his way into Master Control and he was subdued and made to leave the building. He has been hanging out in front of 120 Wall St. harassing some Staff on a number of nights since then.
During this meeting he made some intimidating physical moves towards Kathy Davis. When he tried to sit in back of her Pickles of the North moved to take that seat. The crazy guy left at this point.
Kathy Davis then said that this Gary person had been at the station and that she was his target. She asked the LSB to protect her from him. The Chair said that this was the interim General Manager's responsibility. The meeting went on with Gary from Staten Island disrupting it for a while.
Ironically, Andrea Fishman then asked Mr. Adams why he had taken this job. He replied that he loves radio, and that he'd seen 2 Pacifica stations change General Managers with regularity, and that the last WBAI General Manager hadn't had any radio experience at all, and he thought that he could make a difference.
Another nut who claims to be a big Communist, and who isn't a LSB member, was called on by the Chair and he went on about WBAI having right wing affiliations and sponsoring right wing, anti-Communist campaigns and that people on WBAI were calling for the overthrow of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. He said that he wanted a cap put on this. The interim General Manager said that he didn't know what this guy was talking about.
The Chair then called on another non-LSB member who was at his first LSB meeting ever. He said that we should all state our names to help people who don't know us tell who we are at the meetings, and then he complained about not getting ballots for the elections. Mr. Adams said that the elections had already been in progress by the time he'd arrived as interim General Manager.
The Chair then announced that she was going to tell the Secretary to change the adjournment time on the agenda to 9:30 instead of 9:45 because we had to be out of the room by 9:45. Well, besides being a violation of the rights of the assembly this was just a plain lie. A couple of people went to the front desk of the Harlem State Office Building and the people who work there said that they would do their usual announcement for meetings to wind down at 9:45, and that people actually had to be out by 10:00 PM. This is typical of the kind of dictatorial stuff that the Chair and the faction currently in charge do.
There was no one there to report from the General Manager Search Sub-committee. However faction operative Cerene Roberts noted that Eddie Ellis is the Chair, of that sub-committee, and there is no Secretary of that sub-committee but they have a “note taker.” She said that the sub-committee's process had been interrupted, they needed to set a meeting date, they had tried to have a meeting but that not enough people had shown up for it. She said that they would meet on the call of the Chair.
Berthold Reimers asked when the LSB could expect a report from this sub-committee.
Ms. Roberts said that the Chair of that sub-committee was working on it. In response to another LSB members' questions bout the minutes of those meetings she said that they didn't have minutes.
The interim General Manager said that he has to file a government mandated Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Report and he needs information on the General Manager Search Sub-committee for this year and he hasn't received anything. He said that there's a fine of $8,000 to $10,000 for not doing this. The faction operative said she'd send him an E-mail.
Mitchel Cohen formalized this by making a motion that the General Manager Search Sub-committee would give the interim General Manager the information he needs to file his EEO report. This passed by a vote of 11 for, 1 against.
An attempt to extend the time for this item for an additional 5 minutes so that more information could be gathered failed.
Ray Laforest reported that the Committee of Inclusion (COI) had not met due to a death in his family, and that they were still holding membership open for Arabs and others as they try to achieve a total of 15 members. He said that they're going to do an ethnic survey of the Staff to determine the ethnic ratios at WBAI, and see who's on the air and who runs for the LSB. They'd sent a letter to the last Elections Supervisor about ethnic ratios but they haven't gotten a reply yet. He pointed out that the KPFT and KPFK Committees of Inclusion were not functional. That's rather an amusing assessment from someone who's been in charge of this WBAI COI for years and still can't get it together!
In response to a question Ray Laforest said that the COI met once a month for a total of 5 times since he's been Chair. So 5 times in how many years is once a month?
Next we got to the LSB Radio Show. The public address system was finally set up by this time.
Listeners may have noticed that there haven't really been any LSB-related radio programs for quite a while. This committee has basically fallen apart. It's one of the LSB committees that's melted down over the past couple of years.
Kathy Davis, who is the Public Affairs Director at WBAI as well as being a new Staff representative on the LSB, said she wanted to revive this committee, and proposed that the LSB Radio Show be on the air once a month. She also said that she'd like the LSB Radio Show to help raise money during 'thons instead of just not being around for them. She said that she wanted to develop guidelines for the program and wanted the committee to meet with the Program Director on a monthly basis.
Kathy Davis said that she'd reserved space at the station for a meeting on March 28. There then followed some questions, and some nasty comments from one faction operative. And so Kathy Davis made a motion that the LSB Radio Committee meet on March 28. I made a point about there not being sufficient notice, the Chair relied on her faction leader to come up with the statement that by passing the motion the LSB would be giving adequate notice, citing that “whenever feasible” phrase in the bylaws.
The faction operative who'd been making nasty comments complained that she had a motion and she wanted it to take precedence. But she was denied the privilege of not following the rules this time.
Berthold Reimers noted that the LSB Radio Show Committee had been active and had a structure when Shawn Rhodes ran it, he asked what had happened to it.
Kathy Davis replied that there weren't formal changes in the committee, but that station politics had changed and the committee had broken down.
The faction operative who'd been making the nasty comments then made an amendment that the committee meet on April 2. This carried in an amusing way. Originally the vote came down to a tie of 8 for and 8 against this amendment. The Chair then voted to break the tie by voting against it. Almost immediately her fellow faction operatives told her that she'd not voted with the rest of the faction and the Chair changed her vote to being in favor of the amendment and it passed by a vote of 9 for and 8 against. The main motion now stated that the committee would meet on April 2, and that passed.
At this point Andrea Fishman said that she hadn't realized that April 2, was Passover.
Well, this began another debate that lasted for a while. The time for this agenda item was extended by three minutes so that a very long motion regarding just what the LSB Radio Committee would do could be made by the one who'd been making the nasty comments. She had no copies for anyone else and the LSB voted to refer that motion to the committee itself.
There then followed complaints about how the LSB shouldn't schedule meetings to occur on religious holidays. The Chair ruled that time was up for this agenda item and a little chaos followed.
The faction leader declared that only a motion to reconsider was in order, and of course only someone who'd voted with the winning side can make such a motion. The Chair followed her faction leader's advice. An attempt to appeal the ruling of the Chair was made and there was a bit more chaos.
There was then a call for someone to make a motion to reconsider that vote on making the meeting happen on the first night of Passover. The entire faction was silent. And then Steve Brown softly made mention of this bias that they were showing being brought up during the elections later this year. At that point the faction leader made a motion to reconsider and since he was the faction leader that motion passed and the motion about when the LSB Radio Show Committee would meet was back on the floor.
I moved to extend the time for the item by 6 minutes so the motion could be considered decently. The faction leader proposed 3 minutes and that passed.
In very rapid succession motions to meet on April 9, and April 4, failed. And in the end the original proposal that Kathy Davis had made, to meeting on March 28, passed.
In the end, the LSB Radio Show Committee report, scheduled to take 10 minutes in the agenda, had taken 35 minutes.
Next we got a report from the Chair of the Management Evaluation Committee, Ayo Harrington. Ms. Harrington apologized to the LSB for not reporting in a while. In fact the last time she gave a report was on November 22, 2005! Ms. Harrington had become very agitated and vociferous at a meeting in February when I had made mention of the fact that she hadn't reported to the LSB since late 2005, maybe she's finally realized that she can't continue to claim otherwise.
Ms. Harrington cited the time spent on the LSB Radio Show Committee report as a reason why she hadn't reported in so long. But not coming to any meetings for 16 months didn't lessen her belligerence towards folks any. Ms. Harrington behaved in a hostile manner throughout her report.
She reported that the committee's report on the Program Director was done. It should be noted there that shortly after she'd pushed the previous chair out of the committee by dubious means Ms. Harrington became the personal assistant of Program Director Bernard White. Some think that there's a conflict of interest in having the Program Director's personal assistant chairing the committee that's supposed to evaluate the Program Director and General Manager. Shortly before this LSB meeting someone else became the Program Director's personal assistant.
The report continued and Ms. Harrington said that the evaluation would be given to the Program Director. Carolyn Birden said that the LSB had to see the report. In fact the LSB is supposed to be doing the report, but the faction currently in charge doesn't want to risk having anything but a glowing report for their faction boss.
Ms. Harrington said that the committee had decided how the evaluation would be handled. She said that a working group, which is a sub-committee, would look over the evaluation, which she seemed to indicate would be based on the 33 Staff surveys that had been collected on December 9, 2005. Carolyn Birden objected to this procedure and said that the LSB should be doing the evaluation, and that a working group, which included a number of non-LSB members, couldn't just do this evaluation, especially with the conflicts of interest involved. I pointed out that working groups are sub-committees and do not report to the assembly but to the committee as per Robert's Rules of Order, “A committee ... can appoint subcommittees, which are responsible to and report to the committee and not to the assembly.” [RONR (10th ed.) p. 480, l. 11-13], and that the LSB must conduct the evaluation. The Pacifica Bylaws, Article 7, Section 3 F say that one of the jobs of the LSB is, “To prepare an annual written evaluation of the station's Program Director.” The faction didn't care about any of this.
The faction leader cited a motion passed by the LSB on April 13, 2005, as authorization for the LSB to totally abdicate its responsibility to evaluate the Program Director to the committee. Only faction members voted for that motion, by the way, the rest of us voted against it. Interestingly, that motion says, “This first ever, annual evaluation review of the WBAI Program Director by the Local Station Board will cover the period of February 2004 through December 31, 2004.” So the faction is going to do the 2004, evaluation in 2007, and base it mostly on surveys turned in by 33 Staff on December 9, 2005. Yeah, this makes sense.
Oh, it should be noted that the Management Evaluation Committee also decided that although Unpaid Staff could add comments relevant to the evaluation of the Program Director to their forms Paid Staff would have to appear before the working group if they wanted to make any comments.
A couple of LSB members objected to this obvious attempt to avoid a real evaluation of the Program Director. The Chair ruled that this travesty was all right. Berthold Reimers objected that the evaluation of the Program Director was one of the most important things that the LSB is supposed to do and that the whole process has been botched, that the faction currently in charge had taken over and they done a bad job. When the Chair cut him off while allowing faction members to go on and on Mr. Reimers objected to that and the faction reacted with chaos, yelling and acting out of order. Ms. Harrington announced that it was unfair for us to hear why it's an unfair process.
And then the faction operative who's always nasty to people said that she wanted Mr. Reimer's name put into the minutes, which is a sort of parliamentary punishment. The Chair complied. Andrea Fishman objected to some people being singled out like that. The Chair called for the Public comment session to begin.
Mitchel Cohen moved to appeal the ruling of the Chair; the vote was 10 to uphold the Chair's ruling and 9 to overrule the Chair on her putting Mr. Reimer's name into the minutes. It was a roll call vote, so here's how the LSB members voted.
|In favor of the Chair's ruling:
|Nia Bediako, Marion Borenstein, Tibby Brooks, Lisa Davis, Sarah Flounders, Cheryl Ife Griffin, Ray Laforest, Bob Lederer, Cerene Roberts, Berta Silva.
|Against the Chair's ruling:
|Carolyn Birden, Steve Brown, Mitchel Cohen, Kathy Davis, Andrea Fishman, R. Paul Martin, Berthold Reimers, Shawn Rhodes, James Ross.
Berthold Reimers then tried to make a motion to censure the Chair for her bias, but the Chair then ruled that we had to go right into the Public Comment session and she refused to recognize that motion.
Predictably, during public comment, the LSB was castigated for its conduct over the previous two hours by a number of public speakers. During this session Ayo Harrington compared the LSB to “a bunch of kids,” and said people act like they're in a barnyard or a circus, which was pretty ironic given Ms. Harrington's actions at some meetings! And then she blamed the LSB for undermining the Management evaluation process from the beginning. This last comment elicited some replies from the rest of the audience.
One person said that she had been a member of the Management Evaluation Committee but had been driven out of it by faction operatives who drove out anyone who had criticism of the process used by the committee. In fact Ms. Harrington had been bragging at a meeting a month earlier about how she and her pals had “kicked out” non-faction members from that committee.
One fairly regular public attendee at these LSB meetings said that he didn't share the others' low opinion of the LSB meetings, in fact he found them so entertaining that he had walked from the lower east side to 125th St. for the meeting because it was better than professional wrestling or basketball.
After the Public Comment session was over I tried to get the LSB to vote to accept the resignation from the LSB's Programming Committee of a faction sycophant. Robert's Rules of Order requires that the LSB accept his resignation or he's still a member. But the faction was acting chaotically and the Chair just wouldn't recognize the motion and the faction sycophant just wouldn't publicly announce his resignation to the LSB. Well, this will probably cause more fights in the future.
A motion was rapidly made for the LSB to meet next on April 30th, an attempt to have the LSB meeting sooner was just rejected because of other meetings. A motion to continue the meeting from the point where we'd left off next time was also ignored in a fast shuffle. What the Chair did recognize was a motion to have the Management Evaluation Committee meet with nothing like proper notice. This was in response to my pointing out earlier that the working group couldn't just operate as a committee.
The Chair had been saying that we had to leave by 9:30 PM, but this was a lie. As I said earlier, others had asked the people who run the Harlem State Office Building where we were meeting and they'd been told that we had to be out by 10:00 PM. The faction just enjoys rushing things through without allowing debate or real objections to be lodged.
Amid a lot more chaos the meeting adjourned at 9:46 PM.
You can look at a video of the meeting here: WBAI LSB meeting March 21, 2007.
Here's the page showing the attendance at the LSB meetings.
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