Grace Aaron controls the fate of Pacifica
During a meeting of the Pacifica National Board (PNB) on Thursday evening, July 18th, board member Grace Aaron announced that Maxie Jackson had resigned as Executive Director of the organization.
Aaron also announced that she was now in charge of Pacifica as the interim Executive Director.
No one on the Board made any comment or asked why this was happening. Perhaps they already knew.
Roughly thirteen minutes into the board meeting, Aaron read this 45-second scripted statement:
“Maxie Jackson III resigned from the position of Pacifica Executive Director effective July 5, 2019. The Foundation wishes him the very best in his future endeavors.”
“The Pacifica Foundation is in the process of hiring a highly qualified radio television and multimedia professional to hold the interim position of Executive Director. More information will be forthcoming.”
“A formal search for permanent executive director is already in progress.”
“By California law the board chair automatically assumes the position of temporary Executive Director if no other Executive Director has been engaged.”
“Therefore, please direct pertinent correspondence to me as I will be acting in the capacity of temporary executive director.”[our emphasis added]
The change felt more like a takeover than a transition. Jackson was hired as Pacifica’s Executive Director only nine months ago. During the past nine months, Aaron had been a devoted critic of Jackson.
The change is yet another indication of turmoil within Pacifica, once one of the most influential public radio groups in the U.S. There have been five interim or “permanent” Executive Directors in the past four years.
By all accounts, Jackson’s tenure as Executive Director had been troubled and contentious from the start. Jackson took the job after a lengthy national search by Livingston & Associates.
In February 2019, we reported [link] that Jackson was in the process of dealing with Pacifica’s core problems. At a meeting of the PNB on January 31, 2019 he told the board about conversations he had with officials of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) the reasons CPB will not provide funds to the Pacifica Foundation:
Jackson: “Pacifica is over governed. That there is too much governing structure involved. I think everyone on this call knows the exorbitant amount of money for these elections.”
The elections Jackson was referring to are at the heart of Pacifica’s problems. Members elect other members to serve on various committees and boards. The groups make decisions, large and small, for the entire organization.
The results of this arcane system include operational paralysis, dithering, the lack of accountability and endless backstabbing. Plus, most of the people on the boards and committees have no experience in broadcasting, management or public media.
Jackson also told the PNB at the January 2019 meeting that there is a disconnection between the board and the people who operate the stations:
Jackson: The tragedy is that, when I go around to the stations and talk with the staff, I have yet to meet a person who says the board serves them in any way that is productive.
Jackson told the PNB that Pacifica’s governance system causes a lack of fiduciary responsibility:
Jackson: “One thing that is abundantly clear is that we have a lack of skilled and qualified personnel in many of our shops handling business management. We have a track record of poor financial management at the station level. If you go and look at the CPB documents as far back as 2012 [it] is really clear in the report is that all five stations mismanaged their reporting of their finances.
Jackson said Pacifica must change its system of governance. He said Pacifica must end the "governing" boards and committees and turn them into advisory groups. Plus, he said the place should be run like a nonprofit business
This was a tough pill for Aaron and her associates to swallow. Jackson’s candor may have cost him his job. Now Aaron is in charge of Pacifica.
Aaron has been a part of Pacifica for many years. She has a long association with KPFK in Los Angeles. She was a member of the PNB from 2008 until 2016. Aaron returned to the PNB last year.
KEN SAYS: The key phrase in the “dismissal” of Maxie Jackson is when Grace Aaron says:
“Therefore, please direct pertinent correspondence to me as I will be acting in the capacity of temporary executive director.”
She has the power she always has wanted. Perhaps she should be careful about what she wishes for.
Pacifica's trend line points directly at DOA.
The organization owes millions of dollars. Listening and member support are at all time low points. Aaron has alienated almost anyone who could help turn it around.
Will Grace Aaron be forever known as person who killed Pacifica?