FreePacificans have made a formal demand for an independent, public audit of the Pacifica Foundation's expenditures. The events below deal with irresponsible, if not criminal financial practices by WBAI/Pacifica Management. Clearly, listener-sponsors and workers need to demand some concrete answers.


The following is the text of a memo sent to WBAI GM Valerie Van Isler.

MEMORANDUM TO: Valerie Van Isler, General Manager WBAI
FROM: R. Paul Martin
DATE: July 2, 1998
RE: Management's endangerment of health benefits

     The Union has been in contact with Oxford Health Plans and has been informed by them that WBAI Management is in arrears in its premium payments.  They have further informed us that WBAI Management has been consistently sending in the premiums very late for some months now.
Oxford tells us that they have sent you notices of these previous failures to pay the premiums on time, and that WBAI's health benefits have been suspended more than once because of these arrears.  Oxford has told us that they have repeatedly tried to reach you by phone but that
you have made yourself unavailable to them, an experience the Union has repeatedly had.

     Oxford Health Plans has further informed the Union that they have a new policy concerning premiums which are in arrears and that if the July 1998, premium is not paid immediately that they will in fact terminate WBAI's health plan.

     Both the Contract currently in effect and New York State labor law require that Management fulfill its obligation to maintain the health insurance of WBAI's eligible workers.

     The Union demands that you immediately pay the July 1998, health insurance premiums, and that you pay all future premiums promptly.

     Additionally, the Union hereby requests copies of the monthly health insurance premium bills for all of 1998.

     If the health plan is in fact terminated due to your negligence, WBAI is responsible for covering all health costs of the workers who are currently enrolled in the health plan.

     We are not just talking about money here, we're talking about people's health.  Your failure to make timely health insurance premium payments may endanger the health and even the lives of workers at WBAI, and these are things for which no amount of money can compensate.

cc:  Utrice Leid, Errol Maitland, Brother Shine, Tom Whelan, Daa'iya
Lomax, Chris Costello (U.E. Rep.), Charles Potter (formerly of the WBAI
Local Board), Bill Henning (WBAI Local Board), Pat Scott (Executive
Director, Pacifica Foundation)


a WBAI staffer reports on the move to wall street:

" It's tough to be in a people-service job when there are no people due to utter lack of facilities for people without offices to work.  One week in to the new facility, and still only a tiny, buggy air studio, telephone system that craps out over the weekend (no on- or
off- air calls since Friday night), no dubbing or editing except in the news room, or even a place to cue up tapes or CDs.  No air monitors anywhere in the station, forcing folks like the switchboard operator to buy boom boxes to hear the air.  No hot line or other means of communication between staff at home and those on-premises without an extension, or
between the front desk building entrance and the station .

 Corporate America would be proud - lovely view of the East River Helipad and Brooklyn, gleaming white studios and hallways, glass doors on every hermetically-sealed office, and even a small cubicle surrounded on three sides by a four-foot wall for 150+ unpaid staff to congregate and mutter to themselves about being disenfranchised."

and from programmer Pamela Somers:

"This was actually my first chance to view the "new digs" and I must admit that despite my previous defense of the positive aspects of the move [which include more space, less $ per square foot, possible option to buy, and Valerie Van Isler's successful negotiation of 1 year's free rent], I was kinda chilled when I finally saw the place, cause it looked
[and felt] more like one of those sinister suites on The X-Files than a radio station. As for the much-needed additional space that was gained for the extra $20,000 a year, it seemed that much of that space has gone to management, for some large offices with wonderful harbor views.

We have yet to see a community room! And the control room looked smaller and was less well-arranged, so that when guests were seated, it was so tight and cramped that it was difficult or impossible to move around. In contrast, the old "new" control room that the listeners had just recently built at 505 8th Avenue was better designed, having enough
space between the control desk and the opposite wall to get from the entrance on one side of the room to the entrance on the other, even when guests were seated around at their mics."

However, departing Executive Director Pat Scott, who supervised the arrangements for the new location, presented a different picture in her report to the Pacifica National Board on June 3, 1998:

"Right on schedule on June 1, WBAI in New York began broadcasting from its roomier, modernized location at 120 Wall Street. In true Pacifica fashion, programmers and supporters marched from the station's old space on Eighth Avenue to the new address to mark the event."

For more on the problems with the Wall Street facility, see "A Wild Night on Wall Street"


Date sent:        Sun, 21 Jun 1998
From:             "R. Paul Martin"

Well, we've run into a new one with WBAI's wacky GM Valerie Van Isler.

Some time in the last two weeks she made the Subscriptions Director (a CBU position) sign a full sheet of blank checks.  That's about 30 of them.

He's been a signatory to the WBAI bank account for over 11 years, before the Union came to be.  So he routinely signs checks, but they're checks that are made out to something or other for some stated purpose and with an actual dollar amount written on them.

But now this blank check thing has come up.  The Union has advised him not to sign any more blank checks, and is demanding to know why Van Isler did this.  The Union is also demanding to see each of those 30 checks after they're filled out.

The worker is understandably concerned about those checks.  I've heard of innocent people getting into serious legal trouble for signing blank checks and then having the co-signer make the checks out for something illegal and skipping town.

Does anyone know if making someone sign blank checks is illegal?

Certainly it's not standard bookkeeping practice, nor has it been a regular way of conducting business at WBAI.

We figure that, outside of a sudden retirement to Brazil, Van Isler is doing one of the following things:

1) hiding expenditures from people at WBAI;
2) hiding expenditures from the Pacifica National Office;
3) just entering a new phase of the disintegration of her mental health.

Gosh, it was only last week that Dr. Mary Frances Berry said at the Pacifica National Board meeting that Pacifica published all of its budgets and expenditures.  Nothing was hidden.  Perhaps not all of the Pacifica higher ups are on the same page.  Or perhaps maybe they are.

Date sent:        Thu, 23 Jul 1998 23:15:15 -0400
From:             "R. Paul Martin" <>

The bare bones news here is that WBAI GM Valerie Van Isler admitted last night that Pacifica has sent a memo to the WBAI Staff member who was forced to sign those 30 blank checks telling him not to sign any more blank checks.

This is a clear repudiation of Van Isler's action.  It also lends weight, as if we needed any, to the Union's demand that we see the filled out checks.

Van Isler finally said last night that she'd accede to the Union's demand to se the checks.  Previously, she'd been refusing for some weeks.

A fuller treatment of this is in the E-mail with the subject "A Wild Night on Wall St.!"


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