March 29, 2005
Email the Pacifica National Board:
Don't Reverse DeRienzo's Suspension
Send a cc to: email@example.com
Please write the Pacifica National Board (PNB) -- the 22-member body that sets policy for the 5-station radio network -- to demand that they not reverse the 6-month suspension of Paul DeRienzo, a WBAI Local Station Board (LSB) member who was suspended at the March 9, 2005 board meeting for repeated racist, sexist, anti-semitic and personal attacks on other board members during a number of meetings this year. (video clips of the incidents are can be seen, and more written background is available, at http://www.justiceunity.org/news/derienzosuspended.html).
Now one of the WBAI representatives on the National Board, Patty Heffley, with the support of her board colleagues from Listeners and Staff for Progressive Elections (LIST-PROG) and other board members, is moving to have the Pacifica National Board override the suspension during its meeting this weekend (Fri-Sun, April 1-3) here in New York City. They have organized a letter writing campaign to add weight to their demand. This matter will be voted on sometime this weekend. Some board members are asking for this to be heard in executive session, which would both violate the bylaws and allow for unaccountable decision-making.
DeRienzo's advocates say that a 6-month suspension plus apology is a "constructive expulsion," (and expulsions require a 2/3 vote and 30-days notice), although he would still have a year and a half left on his term after the suspension was complete. Their position ignores the fact that the Pacifica bylaws require boards to follow Robert's Rules of Order, which clearly allow boards to suspend disruptive and/or abusive members by a majority vote without advance notice.
We urge you to write the board a polite letter right away, in your own words, to tell them to uphold the right of the local board to suspend members who abuse other members of the board and engage in discriminatory conduct. Talking points to consider including in your letter are in the text below.
[BACKGROUND - Paul DeRienzo was a former critic of the corporatization of Pacifica who, following the Dec. 2000 "Christmas Coup" at WBAI, gained a prominent on-air position and then backed the illegitimately-installed manager (Utrice Leid) and the corporate board of Pacifica that was finally overturned in Dec. 2001 after a fierce struggle by thousands of listeners and staff. In Feb. 2004, DeRienzo got elected to a listener seat on the WBAI Local Station Board -- thanks in part to a flagrant violation of election rules by his then-employer, WBAI health programmer/entrepreneur Gary Null, who used his website to promote DeRienzo's candidacy.]
BESIDES WRITING AN EMAIL:
Also plan to come tell the board in person your concerns on during the public comment periods during this weekend's Pacifica National Board meeting at the Doubletree Metro Hotel, 569 Lexington Ave. (at 51st St.), Manhattan. #6 Train to 51st St. Check http://www.justiceunity.org for key times over the weekend to mobilize. FRIDAY NIGHT BEGINNING AT 6PM IS ONE KEY TIME TO APPEAR.
HERE ARE THE SUGGESTED POINTS (again, please use your own words):
* The discriminatory nature of the DeRienzo's attacks on fellow board members makes it different from other forms of attack & disruption. He singled out 3 Black men for taunts & insults; acted in a threatening & abusive way to the woman who is chair; & used vicious Nazi language that mocked the suffering of Jews & others in the European Holocaust. This type of discriminatory conduct demands strong disciplinary measures.
* Not a free speech issue with regard to DeRienzo: hate speech & "fighting words" not protected. In addition, he moved about the room in a physically threatening manner.
* DeRienzoís behavior violates the right to free speech of those he disagrees with by trying to silence them.
* Not the same as vociferous expressions of disapproval from the public: board members have the power of the vote & the right to speak on any issue that concerns them, & thus are held to a higher standard of conduct.
* Not the same as the occasional exclamation from a board member ñ this was prolonged, repeated disruption designed to shut meetings down. * Robert's Rules of Order permits suspensions of any length, & 6 months is appropriate for DeRienzo's behavior.
* Limiting punishment to a "slap on the wrist" rewards the behavior & gives a single board member the power to disrupt board meetings at will.
* Should NOT be addressed in executive session. All DeRienzo's behavior & utterances were public & are a matter of public record. Abusive behavior should not be protected by keeping deliberations about it secret.