Faction of Pacifica board sues to reinstate fired director

By Ben Mook

Nine members of the Pacifica Foundation’s board of directors opposing last month’s firing of executive director Summer Reese filed a lawsuit Thursday asking the court to void the action and reinstate her.

Calling themselves the Pacifica Board Members for Good Governance, the group filed a civil lawsuit in the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda. According to the lawsuit, Reese’s March 14 firing violated Pacifica’s bylaws and was “improper, unlawful and fiscally reckless.”

Named in the lawsuit are the board members who voted for Reese’s removal, including Chairwoman Margy Wilkinson and Vice Chairman Tony Norman. The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages, only the overturning of the board’s decision and the immediate reinstatement of Reese.

The Pacifica board voted in executive session to dismiss Reese, who was appointed permanent executive director of the network last November after holding the job on an interim basis. Reese has refused to acknowledge the dismissal and has remained on the job at Pacifica’s headquarters in Berkeley, Calif., in protest.

The group claims that Reese’s dismissal could prompt her to sue the financially struggling Pacifica Foundation, which would lead to a loss of its line of employment insurance and a potential settlement that could ruin the company.

“Defendants actions further threaten the integrity of the fragile nonprofit organization, which cannot afford to suffer the imminent loss of its insurance coverage nor for financial and directorial support on which PFR so critically depends right now,” the complaint reads.

In a statement attached to the lawsuit, Reese claimed that Pacifica is in dire financial straits and without her leadership faces further delays in receiving $1 million in CPB funding. She also said that doubts about Pacifica as a going concern could lead the FCC to decline renewal of the license of Pacifica’s New York station, WBAI, which Reese said has a value of $65 million. WBAI’s license expires in June.

Reese also says in the lawsuit that she turned over documents and information March 31 to the CPB Inspector General’s Office. She said “wide-spread and systemic financial fraud and misappropriation” has potentially been going on at Pacifica for several years.

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