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Pacifica board battles draw to a close?

By Judith Scherr, Daily Planet staff
Saturday November 03, 2001

Marion Barry, former Washington, D.C. mayor and new Pacifica board member, came into the KPFA studios late Friday afternoon and declared to evening news reporter Mark Mericle the “war is over.” 

Barry and others representing the Pacifica National Board of Directors, which holds the licenses to five listener-sponsored radio stations around the country – including KPFA – had been in a 12-hour marathon mediation session Thursday with representatives of the plaintiffs of three lawsuits against the foundation. The suits claim the board has disregarded its own bylaws and acted in an undemocratic manner. 

Local Advisory Board Chair Sherry Gendelman, however, put a damper on Barry’s good news. Asked if the war was truly over, she quipped: “Maybe he’s talking about the war in Kosovo.” 

Mediators had been in negotiations for 12 hours.  

“At the end of the day, we do not have an acceptable agreement,” Gendelman said, explaining that because of a promise of confidentiality among the parties at the table, she could not go into detail.  

“The plaintiffs honored the (agreement) of confidentiality,” she said, taking aim at Barry who talked about the negotiations in the interview with Mericle. 

That interview, shared with the Daily Planet before it was to be aired on Friday’s 6 p.m. news on KPFA, was upbeat. 

“All parties are happy,” Barry said. Explaining the agreement, Barry said there would be a “transition of the board of directors to an elected board.” 

The transitional board would consist of some members of the present board, some people elected by the various stations’ local advisory boards and the plaintiffs in the lawsuits. 

Saturday, he said, there would be a wrap-up of the mediation in a telephone conference with Pacifica’s executive board members. 

Why did the board majority decide to go into mediation rather than waiting to go to trial in January? 

Barry pointed to $2 million the board had spent on the lawsuits. While he talked about the network’s worsening fiscal situation, he said: Pacifica’s “not bankrupt.” 

He noted, however: “We have a severe cash flow problem.” 

(One of the ongoing complaints of “dissident” board members – those in the minority some of whom are party to one of the lawsuits – has been a lack of access to the foundation’s financial information.) 

Barry also underscored that the board “was not even thinking of selling KPFA.”  

Ken Ford, the national board member who resigned Wednesday, was quoted recently by the San Francisco Examiner saying the sale of KPFA and New York station WBAI made good business sense. 

The KPFA interview ended on a high note.  

“Let’s work to support this foundation and this radio station,” Barry said.