Since I wrote my last post on the calamitous state of Pacifica radio, various correspondents have complained that my figures on the network’s subscriber/staff elected board expenses were inaccurate. I roughly estimated them at “close to a million” since the organization has transitioned to an elected board regime.
“When we speak about these matters publicly, we should try to be accurate about the figures,” one Pacifica station KPFA local station board member lectured me. “Pacifica does have financial stresses, but they are caused by many factors including structural operating deficits at several of the stations. We don’t help when we oversimplify or say things that are simply not true.”
This critic continued her quest for complex truth by blaming me for the chaos at a national board meeting that I didn’t even attend. Whatever. In any event, her post was useful, since it pointed to the network’s updated financial audits page (and Terry Goodman has some helpful annotations to my comments).
Sure enough, my guesstimate was way off the mark. The situation is much worse than I thought. Since the network began its process of democratization in 2002, by my arithmetic, Pacifica has spent $2,424,662 on its boards. And if the organization blows about the same sum that it did in 2007 on these wasteful and internally destructive elections, the figure will edge toward $3 million.
Here are the numbers with their accompanying line item descriptions:
|2009 “board expense”||265,687|
|2008 “board expense”||377,977|
|2007 “National board expenses” (230,695)and “board election expenses” (153,256)||383,951|
|2006 “National board expenses” (275,124)and “board election expenses” (47,578)||322,702|
|2005 “National board expenses” (224,677)and “board election expenses” (183,941)||408,618|
|2004 “National board expenses” (119,133)and “board election expenses” (206,571)||325,704|
|2003 “National board expenses”||161,918|
|2002 “National board expenses”||178,105|
Take a look at some of these numbers. Unbelievable. Nearly 400K in 2007. What on earth did Pacifica spend this on? A free chocolate truffle for every subscriber who voted? Single transferable voting fact finding trips to Australia? That probably would have been money better spent than the actual expenditures, which are not detailed in these audits.
In previous posts I’ve complained that board members spend most of their time on internecine politics and precious little on building up the organization. The 2008 audit says it all. Of that 377,977, the line item says 377,902 was spent on “management and general.”
How much was spent on “Fundraising and development”?
Out of control
And please, don’t tell me that these numbers only represent a small portion of Pacifica expenses. We’re talking about $2.4 million to an organization that lost over $4 million in revenue last year. We’re talking about a network that suffers from something far more severe than “financial stresses” and “structural operating deficits.”
I refer you to the comments of Pacifica’s financial auditor, offering his perspective to the Pacifica National Board’s audit committee via teleconference on March 22 of this year. Forward to the middle of the clip and note the tone of alarm in his voice:
“Quite frankly, we believe that your internal controls are atrocious. And I’m not mincing my words. You’ve got stations that act completely on their own,” he warned the PNB. “This organization is out of control.”
Stations don’t properly collect pledges, he noted. They don’t even keep adequate records of their subscribers. They don’t know how to use the organization’s computerized accounting programs. They don’t know how to keep track of station inventory, such as computers and pledge reward items. “You don’t count the inventory. You don’t control it. You don’t count it.”
Your subscriber pledge cards at WBAI, he lamented, “they’re kept in boxes. They’re kept around the place. They’re not maintained by program or by the time the pledges were made. . . . ” Personnel are allowed too much access to pledge cards. “Once a pledge card is made out . . . it should be locked up. This is an asset. It represents somebody’s name, telephone, address, credit card number. Those need to be controlled. That’s just like cash.” The fulfilled pledges aren’t even inputted into the network’s financial database system.
Feel free to listen to the rest of the horror show at your leisure. By the way, in 1999, prior to the democratization of Pacifica, the audit didn’t even have a “national board” category. It listed “conferences and meetings” at a little over $77,000, and the dissidents who constantly complained about Pacifica’s “corporatized” bureaucracy and finances called that a bloated figure.
‘Whose fault is this?’ the auditor was eventually asked. “The finger has to be pointed at the Board of Directors,” he replied. “The Board of Directors need to make its employees accountable.”
That’s why, as a listener subscriber to KPFA in Berkeley, I’m not going to endorse any slate or even vote this year. There’s an old saying from the 1960s: “Don’t vote. It only encourages them.” In this case, I’m afraid that’s true. Pacifica urgently needs a board with the skills to can handle this mess. And it’s not going to get it through this process.
Voices of reason, resources, and influence beyond the organization, where are you? Speak now, before all is lost.