Portland Free Press
PACIFICA RADIO'S CONTINUING
by Per Fagereng
In our last report, Pacifica Radio's closed meeting in Houston had come to the attention of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB's inspector general's office was conducting an inquiry to see if (according to Pacifica's Executive Director Pat Scott) a further investigation was needed. But the official in charge of the inquiry, Brian MCConville, was no longer working for CPB It was now in the hands of the inspector general himself, Lester Latney.
McConnville is no longer with CPB because he was fired last November 10. This happened before I talked with CPB, but a spokesperson at that time just said he was "no longer with" the company.
According to Jeff Blankfort of Take Back KPFA, "Pat Scott got him"-- that is, she persuaded Lester Latney to fire the investigator.
Pat Scott says she has never met Latney, and only talked to him twice on the phone.
McConnville can't say for sure why he was fired but one might draw inferences from the timing. He said the fact that the CPB inquiry and his firing happened at the same time was "quite a coincidence."
CPB claims that he was fired because of his management style, that he was too tough on his subordinates. But he had spent two years with CPB and been given good evaluations. The last came only six weeks before his fiiring, and called his work "fully satisfactory" and "exemplary."
The firing came suddenly. Since CPB is not a federal agency, it is not required to give notice or abide by protections that government workers get. McConnville says he was not given time to gather all the facts or hear Pacifica's side in the dispute over the closed meeting in Houston. If the allegations are true, he says, then Pacifica violated CPB rules and federal law.
McConnville says that when he was fired he offered to help the investigation by transcribing his written notes and list of contacts. He says his boss, Lester Latney, turned down the offer and told him to pack up and go. McConnville left his files and, as far as he knows, nothing has been done with them.
WHO IS LESTER LATNEY?
As CPB's inspector general, Lester Latney has the job of seeing that it's rules are enforced. This calls for a person who is not only impartial, but will stand firm against any attempt to evade CPB's rules.
Before becoming CPB's inspector general, Latney was an accountant. According to McConnville, Latney publicly stated that the CPB didn't need an inspector general----but he took the job when it was offered. According to some, Latney has done little as IG, thereby supporting his earlier opinion. A reporter who has covered this story calls Latney "sloppy and vague."
Another person describes him as "pliable."
When McConnville was fired, he was offered a "memorandum of understanding" regarding his "departure." In return for four weeks' pay (about $3.000), he was to promise not to give "testimony in any form" regarding his case. He would also keep the agreement itself confidential. The memorandum was not to be considered an admission of wrongdoing by either party.
McConnville saw it as an attempt to buy his silence. He refused the offer, and continues to speak out. He says he'll try to keep track of the investigation and send letters to lawmakers.
In late February, Latney left a message on my answering machine that the investigation was on hold. I didn't get a chance to ask him how long it would continue to be on hold (it's been more than threemonths now), but Latney told William Friar of the Oakland Tribune that ot would be pursued "as we can get around to take a look and see what we have theree. Youhave to understand there are alot of matters in process right now."
Indeed there are. If Latney thinks he can juggle one hot potato, another one may soon be on the way.
From March 7 to 10, Pacifica Radio held a National Board Meeting in Los Angeles at the Suite Hotel de Grande Lux in West Hollywood, near Beverly Hills and Sunset Strip and Rodeo Drive---convenient to such elite hangouts as Spago and Le Dome, not far from where Marilyn Monroe lived and died.
When asked why this place was chosen, KPFA manager Marci Lockwood said it was "central," according to Jeff Blankfort. As Steve Dunifer of Free Radio Berkeley remarked, it certainly is not South Central, home of many "voiceless" for whom Pacifica pretends to be the voice.
The hotel boasts a rooftop pool and spa, tennis courts and a health club. Lockwood said the room ratefor Pacifica was only $80 a day, but Blankfort says a desk clerk told him the rates were $100 to $140 a day.
The meeting lasted three to four days but, says Blankfort, only a few hours were scheduled to be public. The rest of the time the board members were" in retreat."
In other words, it looks like a repeat of the meeting that gave rise to the first CPB inquiry, which is still "on hold."