WBAI Election Roundup and Stalemate Board

Tune into Progressive Community Media on Monday February 8th at 6:30pm to hear about how the Indy Caucus, after losing seats on the board tried to install one of their runner ups to fill a staff seat that was already filled. You can see the show on Manhattan cable' network MNN Time Warner channel 34 or RCN channel 82 or www.mnn.org (Community channel 1). Or you can see the following segment posted above.

Intro to the show follows:


WBAI, the noncommercial radio station that airs diverse and progressive programs serving a wide range of communities and movements, has a local governing board that's elected by its staff and listener-supporters. Three-quarters of the seats are held by listeners, one quarter by staff, including the program hosts who are considered unpaid staff.

For most of the last 8 years Justice and Unity has been a minority, with 11 seats to the Independents, now known as the Indy Caucus’s 13. But even with the majority Indy Caucus blocked action by boycotting meetings. Outside the May 2014 Local Station Board meeting they did it again, however that time, one of their number, LSB and Pacifica Board member Manijeh Saba pointedly disagreed with the tactic saying they should go in and talk with Justice and Unity. She was speaking with R. Paul Martin. At the end you’ll hear my voice urging them to come in. Here’s a clip of the conversation.

Clip 2014-05-14.

The elections are always contentious. During this year’s election which began in July 2015, the Justice & Unity Campaign, a multi-racial coalition dedicated to diversity on all sides of the microphone, as well as a thorough program for station sustainability, competed against a predominantly white grouping calling itself the Indy Caucus. The latter group has held the board majority for more than 7 years. Over that time, the station went into extreme crisis, with the membership dropping by 50%, listenership reduced greatly, and fund drives soaring to almost half the year. While controlling the board, the Indy Caucus repeatedly failed to conduct the required yearly evaluation of the General Manager or any Program Directors as mandated by Pacifica by-laws. In 2013, three fourths of the paid staff was laid off because of the disastrous state of the finances.

Last year, half of the Local Station Board's 24 seats were up for election. Results of the election were (click on READ MORE)

announced on January 13, 2016. The Justice and Unity Campaign won 5 of the 9 listener member seats with 62% of the listener vote. On the staff side, a Justice and Unity ally won 1 of the 3 seats. Together with the continuing half of the board, this means the election resulted in 50/50 split between the Justice and Unity Campaign and the Indy Caucus, or 12 and 12.

The Indy Caucus is outraged about losing their electoral edge. Indy Caucus, which previously went by the names "the Independents" and "ACE" won their previous majority in the 2008 election, using a slick, expensive mailing that Justice & Unity charged was filled with falsehoods. Soon thereafter, the Indy forces obtained a majority on the National Board of the parent Pacifica Network. Within a few months, the Indy-aligned national management fired Program Director Bernard White and reassigned then-General-Manager Tony Riddle, both progressive Black managers who had supported diverse community programming.

Fast forward to January 2016: The Indy Caucus, after losing their majority to a 50/50 stalemate, instead of working with the Justice and Unity Campaign and allies to save WBAI, decided to boycott 2 local board meetings in a row. At the first meeting, they assembled outside of the meeting room and refused to go in. 

Under Pacifica by-laws, a majority of board members is required to be present to have a full meeting where decisions can be made. That number is 13. While 18 members of the board came to the building, 8 refused to join the meeting, thus denying a quorum. The sound is a little low so listen carefully.

Clip 1 Marker 04 - If you call a roll call in there you won’t get a quorum (audio)

R. Paul Martin, a member of the so-called “Indy Caucus,” was enraged and began discussing boycotting the meetings and suing the financially weak station and Pacifica Network. 

According to Pacifica by-laws, if a board doesn’t have a quorum, it can still set a next meeting date. That date was set for 2 weeks later on Wed, January 27th, for the annual election of officers and to later elect four representatives to the Pacifica National Board a 22-person board governing the network. If representatives weren’t elected, the station might not have votes at the meeting. So it was important that the second meeting happen.

But Indy Caucus member R. Paul Martin decided to call a meeting to elect the Pacifica representatives for the night before the already scheduled January 27th meeting, even though Indy Caucus members alone didn’t constitute a legal meeting. He set up a sham meeting, without notifying all the new Justice & Unity members and despite knowing that several members had schedule conflicts. At this so-called Delegates meeting, the Indy Caucus  “seated” Kathryn Davis.

To explain: Pacifica's bylaws set a term limit of 6 continuous years for all board members. When one member (Janet Coleman) reached her term limit in December, she was automatically replaced as required by the runner-up candidate from the LAST election, which at that point was the 2012 election, since the 2015 election was still underway. The staff member seated in December (Vajra Kilgour) is a Justice and Unity ally. Therefore, the Indy Caucus refused to recognize her seating, and instead claimed that the seat should have been left open for their ally -- a runner-up in the then incomplete election.

The Indy Caucus moved forward with their staged meeting, counting Kathy Davis as their 13th member, to claim a quorum.  R. Paul Martin chaired that meeting.

Clip 2 Clip of starting fake meeting. VIDEO

Chair Martin then discussed the seating of Kathy Davis and acknowledged there was going to be a lawsuit on the situation.

Then the fake elections were held.

Clip 3 Illegal election of 3-PNB listener reps plus a staff rep VIDEO

The next night, at the legitimately called LSB meeting, again, no quorum was achieved because Indy Caucus again boycotted the meeting, thus leaving the Board one short of a quorum.

Boardmembers introduced themselves and engaged in discussion with those in attendance.

Several Clips follow

It ends with a screen saying the PNB has directed that WBAI meet on its regular meeting date (Wed., Feb. 10) to elect its 2016 PNB members. Indy Caucus people have disrupted the PNB meetings on January 28 and February 4, 2016. The disruptions lasted continuously for an hour at the last board meeting.