Having been repeatedly thwarted by compromised elections, three activist community members were seated on the board of directors for KBBF 89.1-FM last week as the result of a court order.
Evelina Molina, David Janda and Josué Lopez—the latter a one-time manager of the noncommercial Spanish-language station—were named by Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Mark Tansil to fill the three vacant seats.
They were part of a slate of seven board candidates, known collectively as "Voces" ("voices"), who sued the station and current GM Jesus Lozano following a series of three disputed or botched elections dating back to 2006. After reviewing the details of their complaint, Tansil found the incumbent board's actions "clearly unlawful" and called for a new election to be held "as soon as reasonably possible this year." It will be closely monitored by the court.
Tansil also demanded that Lozano be "totally and completely uninvolved" in the new election, writing that he "appears to have become an overly sensitive troublemaker." While the judge stopped short of ousting Lozano altogether, as requested by Voces plaintiffs, he urged the interim manager to "voluntarily choose to move on."
All this has a familiar ring to longtime supporters of KBBF, the oldest bilingual public radio station in the nation. Lopez, Molino and Lozano were all part of a reform-minded group of board candidates who swept into office in September 2005 following an earlier lawsuit against the station's parent organization, Bilingual Broadcasting Foundation Inc. That suit also charged that fair elections had not been held for several years. But the new slate gradually splintered after Lozano, who was initially the board president, assumed the station manager role and proved to be an unexpectedly divisive leader.
Lozano's critics charge he packed the 14-member board with cronies and drove out those who questioned his policies or methods. There have been allegations of intimidation, thinly veiled threats and three reported instances of tire-slashings inflicted against board members who have challenged Lozano, although all these incidents remain officially unexplained. These "ugly and unacceptable" events contributed to Judge Tansil's decision to retain close supervisory control of the renewed election process.
Meanwhile, the federal Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a primary source of KBBF's funding, has conducted its own investigation of the station's finances, including interviews with several dissident former board members who allege fiscal improprieties by Lozano and others.