Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Neighborhood Group Power Struggle Continues
By Jason Islas
October 19, 2012 -- The ongoing battle over who belongs on the board of Santa Monica's Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition will enter a new chapter Saturday when Chair Valerie Griffin will hold another election, this time to change the bylaws.
The group, which has been locked in a power struggle since a contentious election on June 9 to unseat two incumbents on the board, will meet in the MLK Auditorium at the Main Branch Library at 10:30 a.m. to hold what the current board is calling the group's annual meeting where they will vote on new board members and whether to make changes to the group's bylaws.
Griffin and the current board maintain that the June 9 election was not valid, since they say that it did not take place at a designated annual meeting, and that Saturday will be the true election.
“We think that this is an illegitimate move. Our contention is that we've already had an election,” said Reinhard Kargl, one of the eight Wilmont members who maintain that they were elected to the board at the June 9 election.
“There is a question of… whether that this is an annual meeting or not,” said Kargl. But, “in the absence of a court ruling on this, it is unclear at this point whether anything that is decided on the 20th will be allowed to stand.”
Kargl, along with the other seven who stand by the June 9 results, have all received letters from Griffin and her counsel terminating their membership from the neighborhood group, a move which Kargl called “quite unprecedented and quite shocking.”
Griffin sent out a letter on September 27 to members of the group announcing that not only will there be an election for the board Saturday, but members will also vote on changes to the group's bylaws.
“Our Bylaws state that a candidate may submit a petition for a position on the Board of Directors as late as 10 days before the Annual Meeting,” the letter says. “This is in conflict with the notification rules imposed by the California Corporations Code.”
The proposed changes to the bylaws can be read at the group's website, www.wilmont.org, under the “Bylaws” section.
“These proposed bylaw changes will make it easier for them to stay in power. And to exclude other people from challenging them,” Kargl said.
Griffin did not return several calls from The Lookout.
Most of the eight who threw their hats into the ring on June 9 said they were motivated when, last year, the Wilmont board voted to endorse 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.
However, according to the September 27 letter, Wilmont has changed its position.
“We oppose the Miramar project presented to the City Council. At 550,000 square feet, with 120 condominiums, it’s too big,” Griffin wrote.
Kargl called the switch “a political move.”
“They've realized that the majority of Wilmont members are angry and that's the issue that brought the pot to boil,” he said. “Their main objective is not the Miramar. It's to stay in power.”
One of the two candidates for the board listed on the September 27 letter is Ivan Perkins, Chair of Santa Monicans for Responsible Growth (SMRG), a group which formed in opposition to the Miramar expansion and has ties to the Huntley Hotel. (“New Santa Monica Group Has Ties to Miramar Opposition,” August 22, 2012)
Though Kargl said that he could not speak on what steps the excluded eight may take in response to Saturday's meeting, he did say, “We will not disturb the meeting.”
“We call on Wilmont members to vote down any proposed bylaw changes and to not vote for any of the candidates running,” he said.
Earlier this week, Griffin made a request of Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks to have uniformed officers present at the meeting. That request was denied.
“There's nothing criminal going on,” said SMPD Spokeperson Sergeant Richard Lewis.
Saturday's meeting will also feature Council member Kevin McKeown, who will speak to the membership about “Transportation impact Fees, zoning, and other Santa Monica issues,” according to Griffin's letter.
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