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Monday, March 24, 2014

Ousted Pacifica Radio Executive Director Barricades Herself in KPFA, Staffers Say (Update)

Posted By on Mon, Mar 24, 2014 at 5:21 PM

Update, 5:30 p.m.: Summer Reese responds.

click to enlarge kpfa.jpg

The Berkeley-based Pacifica Foundation's decision to oust its executive director, Summer Reese, was only the latest in a series of interstitial battles that have rattled the community radio network, the local affiliate of which is Berkeley's KPFA.

And it was supposed to go off without a hitch.

But Reese, who was expelled two weeks ago by a majority vote of the foundation's board, has doggedly refused to leave. Multiple KPFA sources say that shortly after her ouster Reese set up camp in her office adjacent to KPFA Radio in Berkeley. She's purportedly been there ever since.

That's spawned unrest at a station already bedeviled by fractious internal politics. According to this week's feature in LA Weekly, the rifts are only deepening. (There are, it appears, two rival station-bolstering factions, "Save KPFA" and "Support KPFA.")

Reese, who was conferred her position in November after serving in an interim role for a year, has threatened to sue Pacifica many times, according to sources familiar with the matter.

On Friday, a staff member at Pacifica's national office ordered an industrial paper shredder to be delivered down the street to the station's downtown Berkeley headquarters on Monday morning. Drama ensued.

Pacifica's National Board Chair, Margy Wilkinson, had already asked people inside the station to refrain from destroying any records, as Pacifica has a policy of document retention. One staffer we reached suspects an unnamed colleague ordered the machine because he or she was intent on desecrating materials that Pacifica could have used to exculpate itself, in the event of a lawsuit.

Reached by phone Monday, Wilkinson downplayed that theory and declined to speculate on the intentions of whomever ordered the shredder. Other staffers say, however, that the paper shredder was the equivalent of a gauntlet being thrown. It sparked a heated verbal argument outside KPFA, which drew the attention of a beat cop who happened to be passing by.

"It looked like an internal matter within the company," Berkeley Police spokeswoman Jennifer Coates said, adding that the officer listened to both sides and attempted to quell the dispute -- apparently to no avail. No arrests were made, but a KPFA staff member said that Pacifica will push forward with plans to hire an interim executive director, who should be named imminently.

Meanwhile, Reese apparently remains barricaded in her office.

Update: Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.: Summer Reese tells SF Weekly that she was fired without notice, in violation of her contract with Pacifica. "I walked into a place that had ten years of decay and mismanagement and a bad board structure," Reese says, explaining that she's spent the last year trying to keep the national organization afloat. She says she's stayed in her office out of an ethical commitment to Pacifica.

"I come from a life-long political activist family," Reese says. "I care about keeping alternative media open. I'd much rather see to it that Pacifica survives, than sue for breach of contract."

But if the board refuses to reinstate her, Reese will do just that. She says that legal filings are already in the works.

A for the shredder, Reese says it was just poorly timed. "I have staff here, our shredder is broken, we have paper piled up on both sides of the copy machine," she says. "It completely freaked everybody out next door."

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.


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