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Santa Monica Wilmont Board Fires Back after Ballot Count
By Jason Islas
July 16, 2012 -- After more than a month of silence, the board of Santa Monica's Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition has denounced the provisional election held at last month's annual meeting and issued “Cease and Desist” letters to the newly elected board members.
The move by the current Wilmont board comes a week after the candidates and other members of the neighborhood group met at the Church of the Nazerene to count the ballots cast at the June 9 meeting and announced the new board members. (“Santa Monica Wilmont Gets New Board, Maybe,” Lookout News, July 6, 2012)
“The current board announced today that is has terminated the membership of a rival group of Santa Monica residents who staged an improper takeover of the June 9 Community Meeting,” Wilmont Chair Valerie Griffin announced in a statement issued Friday.
The board also issued “Cease and Desist” letters to what they are calling “the splinter group” comprised of candidates who "have acted in opposition to the rules and procedures of the Organization.”
The candidates counter that it is the current board that violated the rules and procedures of the organization by attempting to block the election at the group's annual meeting.
They note that the vote count earlier this month was supervised by three non-partisan election judges, including former City Council member Kelly Olsen.
The move by the current board could spark a legal battle.
“Looks like we're going to have to do this in the court room,” said former Wilmont chair Jeanne Dodson, who is one of the new board members elected after the June 9 ballots were counted last week.
“It's going to cost thousands and thousands of dollars,” said Dodson. “But we have to stand up and fight for democracy,” she said.
Dodson also pointed out that the IRS recently revoked the nonprofit organization's exempt status due to failure to file Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for three consecutive years.
According to the group's bylaws, new board members must be elected at the group's annual meeting, which took place June 9.
At that meeting, Griffin attempted to postpone the election because she said the most current membership list hadn't yet been verified.
Marcia Carter, Wilmont's membership director, had broken her hip and was hospitalized, Griffin said, adding that the group did not have access to the list in Carter's apartment.
Angry Wilmont members demanded a provisional election and voted Griffin down as chair of the meeting after she attempted to block the move. ("Santa Monica Group Holds Elections after Miramar Opponents Pack Meeting," June 9, 2012)
Many of the new candidates decided to run after the Wilmont board voted to support the Miramar redevelopment project, which could add as many as 120 condominiums and three new buildings to its site at the southwestern edge of the neighborhood.
Although the candidates are not sure what the next step will be, Dodson said, “Now we have to go into legal mode.”Another candidate, Reinhardt Kargl, has started a blog to post updates on the ongoing battle.
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