UPDATE: An Alameda County Superior Court judge has issued an injunction against the Pacifica Foundation, in response to a lawsuit by three KPFA staff members.
The same week that Pacifica abruptly laid off the staff of The Morning Show, it was quietly moving to steal KPFA’s Local Station Board election as well, according to a suit filed in Alameda County on Wednesday.
The suit alleges that one month after KPFA’s preliminary vote count resulted in a resounding defeat for the currently-dominant “Independents for Community Radio” (ICR) faction of KPFA’s board, Pacifica decided to retroactively nullify the votes of targeted staff members to change the outcome of the election for staff representatives. According to the suit, the voters targeted for disenfranchisement include Mitch Jeserich, Host of “Letters to Washington”, and Brian Edwards-Tiekert, the laid-off co-host of KPFA’s “The Morning Show.” The change cost KPFA DJ Lewis Sawyer a seat on the Local Station Board as a staff representative, tipping the factional balance of power for key votes.
The ICR faction has largely supported the layoffs at KPFA; ICR leader Tracy Rosenberg has been Pacifica’s most visible defender of the cuts; she had also proposed that Brian Edwards-Tiekert and Aimee Allison in particular be targeted for layoff in a secret meeting with Pacifica management in September. However, she and the ICR slate were poised to become a minority faction on the KPFA Local Station Board — until the election results changed.
How did Pacifica disenfranchise the workers? Pacifica had printed a unique serial number on each of KPFA’s supposedly secret ballots, and maintained a list of which serial numbers had been issued to which voters. It then, according to the suit, used that list to determine how staff members like Jeserich and Edwards-Tiekert had voted, and nullified their votes. The move drew outrage from KPFA staff, who can face workplace retaliation for voting against an incumbent majority if they lose the guarantee of a secret ballot.
The lawsuit seeks to reverse Pacifica’s actions, which it says breach provisions in California state law that limit the ability of nonprofits like Pacifica to disenfranchise their own members. Jeserich, Edwards-Tiekert, and Sawyer are named as plaintiffs in the suit — the official complaint narrates a three-week long process they and their attorney went through trying to get Pacifica to voluntarily come into compliance with the law, so they could avoid involving the court. Now, their attorney is seeking an expedited hearing for a Temporary Restraining Order that can prevent Pacifica from seating its hand-picked election winners at this Saturday’s meeting of the KPFA Local Station Board. [UPDATE: An injunction against Pacifica has been granted by the Superior Court.]