A long and bitter legal battle at the nation's only progressive radio network, marked by protests and arrests at
Houston's KPFT 90.1 FM, ended Wednesday in an Oakland, Calif., courtroom.
The majority on Pacifica Radio's 15-member national board of directors reached an agreement settling four combined lawsuits before
California District Judge Ronald Sabraw, said attorney Adam Belsky, who represented Pacifica listeners and the state of California
in one of the lawsuits.
The settlement requires insurance companies for the 10 majority members of the board and former board members named in the lawsuits
to pay $400,000 to settle claims that the board mismanaged Pacifica's assets, Belsky said.
The agreement is a victory for dissidents who filed the lawsuits to force the board to return decision-making power to local
advisory boards at the network's stations in Houston, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Calif., New York and Washington, D.C.
Belsky said the settlement forces the board majority, which came under a relentless attack as it tried to move the network away from
left-leaning comment and information toward more mainstream programming, to adhere to a plan to restructure the board that was
reached in Washington, D.C., last month.
The majority tried to back away from the plan after it was agreed to on a unanimous vote, he said, but included the plan in the
settlement after dissidents pressed their lawsuits. "The fear of a trial brought them back to the table," Belsky said.
The lawsuits essentially accused the national board of violating Pacifica's charter by stripping the local advisory boards of
KPFT General Manager Garland Gantner twice had protesters arrested outside his station, where dissidents set up loudspeakers to
blare programs banned by the national board but broadcast through a guerrilla network.
Dissidents had cited KPFT and WPFW in Washington, D.C. -- both accused of dumping local news and public affairs in favor of more
music -- as examples of how Pacifica stations should not be run.
Neither Gantner nor a spokesman for the majority board members could be reached for comment.
The California attorney general, who oversees all nonprofit corporations in the state, appointed Belsky because he believed the
board violated state law by taking away the local advisory board's right to vote without their approval.
"The goal is to get the organization back on its feet and correct the governing bylaws and provide for democratic elections," said
Belsky, referring to Pacifica's shaky financial condition.
An audit of Pacifica's 2000 fiscal year, commissioned by dissidents, alleged that the network spent about $2 million, or 20 percent
of its annual budget, on legal fees.
The agreement reached in court calls for five majority members to resign and be replaced by members elected by local advisory
boards, and the five minority members to be replaced with members named by plaintiffs in the lawsuits, Belsky said.
The new interim board will rewrite the bylaws to provide for the election of a new board within 15 months, he said.
All decisions by the interim board require a two-thirds vote by those voting and present or a simple majority if there is agreement
by at least one member each from the five members representing the old majority, the five representing the old minority and
the five representing the local advisory boards.
If neither condition is met but a motion still receives a majority vote, it will be submitted to the judge, Belsky said.
Copyright 2001 Houston Chronicle