Pacifica’s executive director ignores board’s firing

By Mike Janssen

Pacifica Executive Director Summer Reese reported to work today at the radio network’s headquarters in Berkeley, Calif., ignoring her dismissal Thursday by Pacifica’s board of directors.

Board members went into executive session during a meeting last week and voted to dismiss Reese effective Friday. Reese was appointed permanent executive director of the network last November after holding the job on an interim basis.

Margy Wilkinson, who was elected chair of Pacifica’s board in February, declined to discuss why the board voted to dismiss Reese. “The board took an action that it thought was both necessary and appropriate,” she said by phone Monday. She would not disclose how many members voted for dismissal.

Wilkinson spoke from Pacifica’s offices, where she had arrived this morning to discuss recent happenings with staff “and was prevented from doing so by Summer Reese,” she said. Wilkinson said that she asked Reese to leave and the executive director declined. The board chair remained at the office.

In an email to Current, Reese wrote, “We are not allowing the coup to proceed. Everything is fine. I am in my office. Staff are working. There are about a dozen supporters and four opposition in the building.”

Reese also sent the following memo, posted earlier on the WBAI Pacifist Battleground blog:

To: Pacifica, station managers, staffers and programmers

From: Summer Reese, Executive Director, Pacifica Foundation Radio

Subject: Rumors

I want to thank all of you for the work that you do everyday to keep Pacifica running. Recently, we have experienced internal conflict between the board of directors and the executive director. I know that when these conflicts are expressed publicly, it creates a lot of organizational stress and makes it hard to concentrate on your work.

I want to assure you that I am in possession of a signed and valid contract for three years of employment from the Board of Directors and that I fully intend to complete that contract and work with all of you to make Pacifica bright and strong again.

The illegitimate actions of board members have, over the years, created a great deal of turmoil and financial stress on all of our stations and workplaces. It is time for that to come to an end.

The charges that I am going to seek hundreds of thousands dollars are ridiculous. What I am going to do is go back to work immediately and you will join me in doing so.

I deeply regret that the infighting on the board was not kept in the boardroom where it belongs. I look forward to getting back to operating five precious and much-loved community radio stations. Thank you.

Wilkinson said she does not know how the standoff will be resolved.

“We’re just in a waiting game,” she said. ” . . . We’re talking to lawyers. I’m trying to figure out what to do. I’m hoping that we can somehow reach a peaceful resolution to this situation.”

Wilkinson has served on Pacifica’s national board for a year and on the board of KPFA, Pacifica’s Berkeley station, since 2010. She belongs to Save KPFA, a Berkeley-based organization of KPFA listeners and volunteers that has objected to Pacifica’s leadership in recent years.

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