Judge ends Summer Reese’s occupation of Pacifica offices
Alameda County, CA judge Judge Ioana Petrou ruled that Summer Reese, the fired head of Pacifica Radio that runs KPFA-FM Berkeley/San Francisco, ending a two-month occupation of her office.
“I respect the law whether it goes my way or not,” Reese said Tuesday. “I said all along I’d obey whatever the judge orders.”
Reese, 40, was fired by the non-profit foundation’s board in an 11-7 vote on 3/13 and was locked out of the headquarters. However, after cutting the padlock to get into the building, Reese then hunkered with a team of supporters. Reese and 12 of her compatriots — including Reese’s mother, a longtime anti-war and civil rights activist — refused to let Board Chair Margy Wilkinson, her husband and two of her allies pass.
Pacifica Foundation Radio oversees five Pacifica stations serving New York (WBAI), Los Angeles (KPFK), Berkeley (KPFA), Houston (KPFT) and Washington, D.C. (WPFW).
She and her team have equipped themselves for their working sit-in, which “Reese said involves around-the-clock shifts, with an inflatable air mattress leaning against a cubical wall and takeout food boxes plopped around the offices.
Reese argued she was not given a reason for being fired and that the move violated her contract, which required her to be terminated for cause,” said the Oakland Tribune story.
After chairing the Pacifica national board for two years and working as both the chair and interim executive director for a year, Reese signed a contract in January to permanently take on the organization’s top role. The agreement guaranteed her $315,000 over three years, according to a copy of the contract.
She said the board likely ousted her because she was demanding greater financial accountability.
The board members who backed her then filed a lawsuit seeking to reinstate her. But the board members who wanted her fired went to the same judge and asked for a temporary restraining order barring her from the office.
“Her continued occupation of (Pacifica Foundation Radio’s) national office constitutes a trespass and nuisance,” Petrou said in her ruling.
The order bars her from the office. Petrou also denied Reese’s supporters a motion that would allow her to keep her job until their lawsuit is settled, said the story.
“This is a total victory for the new board majority, which has been conscientiously working to save Pacifica,” said board chair Margy Wilkinson in a prepared statement following the ruling.
In the 18-page ruling, one of the issues surrounding Reese’s termination was her inability to complete a background check, partly because she does not have a social security number. Reese said she does not have a social security number for religious reasons and is a Christian.
Reese said the type of people who are drawn to the governance board, usually from the far left and radical political fringes, mostly lack basic business skills that would allow them to make good decisions. She said the organization will continue to have problems until its governing rules are changed.
“Everybody who really cares about Pacifica’s mission knows it has to be fixed,” Reese told the paper.