WILMONT’S MAJOR DISCONNECT
Congratulations, Peggy for calling a spade a spade in your Griffin vs Clifford piece of Sept 2.
There’s something here I don’t understand. Why does Valerie Griffin keep talking about a “small group” trying to take over Wilmont; “a small group” disrupting her meetings?
I attended the August 20th Wilmont meeting. I had talked to the woman who makes the reservations for Ken Edwards, and was told there were two Wilmont meetings scheduled. But when I arrived, there was a mix-up in reservations, and there was only one room available.
So the two Wilmont groups met together. When I arrived, several members of the “new board” were seated at the head table with several members of the “old board”. The meeting was chaotic, with a lot of expressed anger. People were suggesting various Robert’s Rules of Order to get through the impasse, but that was going nowhere. The static was around Valerie Griffin’s continuing to say, “There has been no election. There has been no election”. The room was filled with people who had participated in that election, yet Valerie kept saying, “There has been no election,” over and over.
A woman from the new group stood up and said to Valerie and her supporters at the head table, “Tell us what you’re feeling and we will not interrupt”. She was able to keep the audience from interrupting while Valerie and 2 other “old board” members spoke. The gist was that they are outraged and insulted about not being treated with respect at the Annual Meeting (which they now call a “Community Meeting”).
When they finished, people in the audience started to reply. Valerie would not tolerate any feedback from the floor. Nothing anyone offered as a solution would suffice. Without any motion from the floor, Valerie announced that “This meeting is adjourned”. The audience of about 28 people just sat and watched as she and her supporters walked out. She kept telling the attendees that everybody had to leave because she made the reservation and if she left, everybody else had to leave, also. The attendees didn’t move. Valerie and 3 or 4 supporters went out in the hall with their attorney and tried to get the Security Guard to throw the rest of the attendees out.
He came into the room and asked, “Who is going to pay for this room?” Betty Mueller (Wilmont recognized “old board” member) said, “I’ll pay for it”. Jeanne Dodson said, “If you check with Kate Vernez at City Hall, the room is free to neighborhood groups”. He took her word for it and left. The meeting continued in an orderly fashion through an agenda created by the audience.
The security guard returned, stood and listened to this orderly meeting for a bit, then interrupted to ask, “Are you members of this neighborhood group” There was a group response, “Yes”. He asked for a show of hands. 25 people raised their hands. So he was faced with 6 angry people in the hall, and 25 orderly people in the room. Now, exactly what small group tried to break up this meeting?
I didn’t attend, but have heard from a number of people who attended, that at the June 9th Annual Meeting (named “Annual Meeting” in the notice emailed to members 2 days before the meeting) there were over 50 people present who felt they were entitled to vote (they had paid for membership). 47 voted to hold the election. 4 voted against it. Valerie refused to hold the election in the face of that vote, so the same 47 people voted her out as chair of the meeting and asked Albin Gielicz, vice chair, to officiate.
Albin conducted the election carefully, paying attention to bylaws and Robert’s Rules. Now with a vote of 47 to 4, what small group disrupted that meeting? And what small group is trying to hold control of Wilmont? There seems to be a major disconnect between strategy and facts. It appears that a small group is trying to hold on to the reins at Wilmont while a larger group of residents is attempting to be heard.
The election has been held. The ballots have been counted.
On July 7th, 2012, a public meeting was held in the community room of the Church of the Nazarene on Washington and 18th. Zina Josephs, president of another city-recognized neighborhood organization, Friends of Sunset Park, had been agreed upon by both sides as a neutral person they trusted to hold the sealed ballot box full of sealed, signed envelopes containing the ballots. Zina brought the ballot box to the meeting.
She reports, “I had been asked by both Albin Gielicz (current Wilmont Vice Chair) and Jeanne Dodson (former Wilmont Chair) to keep the sealed ballot box from the June 9th meeting until another public meeting could be arranged to count them. The ballots were counted in public on July 7th with excruciating care by former City Council member Kelly Olsen, attorney Carole H. Aragon, and Lauren Murray, Assistant Treasurer for Latham & Watkins. They spent 2 hours counting 57 ballots, recording the votes on a tally sheet, and writing down the name and address of every voter on a list (that information was on the outside of the envelope that held each ballot), then putting the ballots back in the envelopes, re-sealing the box, and signing the top of the box.
“Longtime Wilmont Board member Betty Mueller was there to observe, as was Jason Islas from The Lookout News (surfsantamonica.com), Hannah Heineman from the Santa Monica Dispatch, and Ashley Archibald from the Santa Monica Daily Press, along with Ed Hunsaker and a couple dozen other Wilmont members.
“Ed (who is a Wilmont member, but neither a Board member nor a candidate) and I then went to Kinko’s and Xeroxed copies of the tally sheets and the list of voters. Ed also had prepared a notebook with proof of membership for a majority of the people who cast ballots (PayPal receipts, copies of canceled membership dues checks, carbon copies of checks that had not yet been returned, etc.).
“I mailed copies of the vote tally sheets and voter lists to Valerie Griffin, to Albin Gielicz (Wilmont Vice Chair) and to Diane Krakower (Wilmont Secretary).”
Given the information above, I’d say Valerie Griffin is free to say that there has not been an election she chooses to recognize, but to deny that any election has taken place borders on lunacy. With their latest meeting held by phone with only 5 members participating (the phone number was posted only 2-l/2 hours before the meeting) this small group managed to eliminate any criticism of their actions. (See “Santa Monica’s Wilmont Board Sidesteps Confrontation with Telephone Meeting,” posted Aug 29th on surfsantamonica.com). The question remains whether this conference call was a “public” meeting. Seems this small group is working to eliminate anyone who disagrees while insisting they (and they alone) are the valid Wilmont board.
I’ve been involved with neighborhood groups in Santa Monica for the past 18 years, and for 12 years before I moved to Santa Monica. It has always been my understanding that neighborhood groups were intended to reflect the concerns of the residents. This willful twisting of facts and refusal to listen to residents is beyond my comprehension.
I have one overriding question: What’s the point here?? If this small subset of Wilmont is willing to risk losing a great many members over time, and willing to alienate a new group of members, what is important enough for them to engage in this fight? It’s certainly NOT the “integrity of the corporation”. Its certainly not about parking in the Miramar. There is already a commercial parking structure in Wilmont on 4th Street between Wilshire and California, and that hasn’t solved their parking problem. So what’s the point?
I suggest that Valerie Griffin and her supporters get a copy of the book “Leadership” by Pulitzer Prize winner James MacGregor Burns. It’s the classic in the field. He defines a leader as “one who responds to the needs of the led”. He defines a dictator as “one who attempts to impose his will on the led”. In a Democracy, the latter doesn’t usually have much success retaining followers. And it’s the followers who ultimately decide.
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