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$500,000 for KPFA guards, PR, but crisis will not bankrupt Pacifica Foundation, Chadwick says

By Judith Scherr, Daily Planet Staff

Expenses from the crisis at KPFA, including armed guards and public relations, totaled about $500,000, said Pacifica Executive Director Lynn Chadwick, in a letter addressed Friday to Assemblymember Scott Wildman.

"Security for the station and transmitter cost over $390,000. Boarding up the windows and doors cost nearly $7,000. Support for public relations came to some $58,000," Chadwick wrote, noting at the end of the letter, "While these expenses are exceptional, they will not bankrupt KPFA nor (sic) Pacifica."

Wildman, a Glendale Democrat, chairs the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which had requested documentation of Pacifica's finances. Chadwick said these documents, with one exception, were enclosed in the letter.

The Daily Planet received a faxed copy of Chadwick's letter to Wildman late Friday and was unable to verify its authenticity with Chadwick. However, the source of the fax appears to be consistent with at least one other Pacifica news release received by the newspaper in the past month.

Reached at about 9:30 p.m., Assemblywoman Dion Aroner, D-Berkeley, said she had no knowledge of the letter or knowledge that the documents had been received by Wildman's office. Wildman's staff could not be reached for comment.

On Friday afternoon, Aroner aide Hans Hemann, apparently unaware of the letter, told the Daily Planet that a sergeant-at-arms would fly to Los Angeles Tuesday to pick up the documents from Pacifica. If the documents were not made available, the sergeant-at-arms would have the power to present Pacifica with subpoenas, which the Audit Committee had obtained Thursday from the Rules Committee.

There is still one document requested that Chadwick did not send. She said, however, that it would be available "shortly."

"Pacifica's agreement to provide these documents is in no way intended as a waiver of our objection to this entire proceeding," Chadwick wrote in her letter to Wildman. Pacifica officials have said previously that they believed the Audit Committee had no jurisdiction over nonprofit corporations.

Wildman said at an Aug. 20 hearing in Oakland that it was the committee's responsibility to ascertain whether a nonprofit corporation that benefits from a tax-exempt status serves the public benefit.

At the hearing, which Pacific representatives declined to attend, KPFA staff and board members said they feared Pacifica had misspent its funds and harmed the station by the expenses incurred during the height of the conflict between KPFA and Pacifica, which holds the license to KPFA.

In her letter, Chadwick placed the blame for the expenses squarely on staff and their supporters.

"It is ironic that those who caused Pacifica to have to spend these monies are the very ones who condemn these expenditures," Chadwick wrote. The expenses incurred were a result of "dangerous demonstrations organized by certain KPFA staff members, ex-staff members, and others," her letter said.

Elaborating on the need for security, Chadwick said that the police said they would not guard the station, so Pacifica had to engage guards for protection.

"Such expenses were clearly necessary and appropriate," she wrote.

Chadwick's letter addressed office expenses. Pacifica had to rent office space elsewhere because employees were unable to enter the offices on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, next to the station. Chadwick pointed to a demonstration Thursday which condemned her planned return to her office.

"As long as we feel that the safety of our staff is at risk, we must continue the wasted expense of additional office space,' she wrote.

Further, Chadwick condemned the KPFA supporters for "filing frivolous lawsuits and specious complaints" during the time Pacifica is trying to mediate with KPFA.

And Chadwick blasted the committee for not allowing the mediation process to go forward unimpeded and for "applying additional pressure through subpoenas and other actions from the legislature."

KPFA co-news director Mark Mericle, a union shop steward and member of the team that is mediating with Pacifica, said the $500,000 expense could be extremely hurtful if it was taken out of KPFA funds and not from the general Pacifica budget. The letter was unclear about which budget paid this expense.

Mericle bristled at Chadwick's attempt to blame KPFA for the expense of the security guards.

"There was a deliberate plan to shut down KPFA, remove the workers and sell the station weeks before the night of July 13," Mericle said. July 13 was the date Dennis Bernstein was put on leave and the station shut down.

Backing up his assertion, Mericle said that tapes Pacifica used when regular programming was taken off the air were sent to the station weeks before the shut down and sit-in at the station. And the unarmed security guards were replaced by armed guards weeks before the lockout, he said.

As for national office expenses, Mericle said, "Another little irony is that Chadwick wants to go back to that office without guards. It's pretty absurd."

Responding to Chadwick's complaint of a frivolous lawsuit, Mericle said the lawsuit challenging the board structure had been in the works even before the termination of the general manager March 31.

"It was filed by local (advisory) board members who believe there was a power grab and a violation of the corporation code of the state of California," he said.

A final point Mericle made, responding to Chadwick's desire to continue the mediation, is that he said the mediation team was told by a mediator that Pacifica had said it "wasn't getting anything out of mediation." They said they should be ready to mediate Tuesday, but "they weren't sure Pacifica would show up."

From the Berkeley Daily Planet, September 4-6, 1999