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|Showdown Likely At Santa Monica Neighborhood Meeting|
By Jason Islas
June 8, 2012 -- Candidates vying for seats on the board of the Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition (Wilmont) are planning a showdown to force group officials to hold the election removed from the agenda of Saturday's annual meeting.
The candidates are threatening to take legal action unless there is an election, which was cancelled after group leaders claimed they could not verify the membership status of 11 candidates who have submitted petitions to run for the board.
The prospective candidates, some of whom are angered by Wilmont's recent support of the proposed redevelopment of the Miramar Hotel, note that the group's bylaws require that elections be held for new board members at the annual meeting.
Former Wilmont Chair Jeanne Dodson, who is running for a seat on the board, likened the move to cancel Saturday's election to “a Banana Republic power grab,” which she said “would almost be amusing if it weren’t such an abrogation of our residents’ rights.”
“We are displeased with the way this organization has been run,” Dodson said. “The bylaws say that at the annual meeting, we have to have an election.”
Wilmont Chair Valerie Griffin claimed in an e-mail sent to Wilmont members last night that the City has given her permission to postpone elections because Wilmont's 83-year-old membership director broke her hip.
As a result, she said, they have been unable verify whether those who signed cadidates' petitions are Wilmont residents.
City officials denied that they have given special permission, Dodson said.
The bylaws state that in order to run for the board, a candidate “must be a voting member of the corporation and reside in the geographical area.”
“Candidates to the Board of Directors shall be nominated by petition filed at least ten days before the annual meeting and signed by ten members of the Wilshire/Montana Neighborhood Coalition,” the bylaws read.
According to the bylaws, “Residents and businesses who subscribe to the purposes and rules of the corporation and who reside in the Wilshire/Montana Neighborhood Coalition area... upon payment of the membership fee, may be voting members of the organization.”
But Wilmont Chair Valerie Griffin claimed, in an e-mail sent to Wilmont members last night that “the Wilshire/Montana Neighborhood Coalition has long-standing rules.
The rules, Griffin wrote, "state that anyone seeking to be a Board member must have been a voting member of the organization for the previous year, attended at least three regularly-scheduled Board meetings during the last six months, and assisted in the functioning of the organization.”
These rules are not, however, in the bylaws.
Dodson, who was chair from 2004 to 2009 said that she knows of no such rules.
“We have followed the rules to a tee,” Dodson said.
“I plan to show up tomorrow with my driver's license and a copy of a receipt from my membership payment,” said Jim Pickrell, a 25-year resident of Wilmont and candidate for the board.
Pickrell said that he was motivated to run after he found out that the Wilmont board had endorsed the Miramar redevelopment project, which would add as many as 120 condominiums in three new buildings that would replace the two existing main buildings..
“I haven't been consulted,” Pickrell said, adding that he didn't find out about the board's endorsement until he read about it in the local media.
Pickrell, who lives a few blocks from the Miramar site, said that he is worried that the new project will create more traffic and make it more difficult to find parking. But what irritated him most, he said, was that the decision to endorse the project was made by “five people in a smoky room.”
“This is an attempt to hijack the process,” Pickrell said.
Although some claim that the opposition to the Wilmont board has been orchestrated by the Huntley Hotel, Pickrell said he hasn't heard about any orchestration.
“They're certainly supportive of it,” he said. “But I haven't received anything from them.”
One of the candidates is Wilmont resident and Huntley General Manager Manju Raman, whose name also appears on the petitions of the other 10 candidates.
For Dodson, the Miramar wasn't the issue. It was about the organization's process.
“The issue is that these five people in a back room made this decision for us,” she said. “It's not about whether you are for or against” the Miramar project.
“It's not their decision to make,” she said.
Though she didn't say specifically what would happen if Saturday's elections are not held, Dodson said that there are “lawyers and heavy-hitting politicians working on next steps.”
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