By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
When the West Valley group learned that BONC was now attacking a neighborhood council in South L.A., the president and two board members traveled from the Valley south to attend the January 14 meeting — and to show solidarity with their embattled, cityside peers.
It didn't help. By night's end, Burman joined three other commissioners — Lucks, Daniel Gatica and Michele Siqueiro — to decertify the Vernon/Main council, even after the group refuted, with detailed documentation, a litany of thin charges by DONE.
Among other things, DONE Project Coordinator Mark Lewis accused the South Los Angeles group of failing to hold timely elections. In fact, Lewis blocked those elections until he approved the group's petition for election-prerequisite changes to its bylaws. DONE must respond to such petitions within 10 days, but made the group wait four months, then rejected its petition due to "insufficient paperwork."
Lewis also wrongly testified that the South Los Angeles group regularly failed to gather a quorum of "nine" board members. In fact, Vernon/Main's council needs only seven members for a quorum. The neighborhood council turned over to the Weekly a complete set of minutes dating back to 2005 that plainly show that its meetings were held with a quorum and according to its bylaws.
Barnett says he also made repeated requests to Lewis to provide a Spanish-language translator at its meetings, which Lewis often failed to do. (An e-mail from Lewis dated November 7, 2007, apologizes for one such failure.) DONE also blocked Barnett's efforts to hire a "nonauthorized" translator — a hiring policy confirmed by General Manager Kim.
Former executive director of DONE Greg Nelson describes what his erstwhile department is doing to the neighborhood council as the "bleeding of an organization to death with a thousand paper cuts." The petty demands have perplexed him. "I just don't see why DONE would need to approve a translator," Nelson told the Weekly.
This is not what the framers of the City Charter had in mind when they created the rules that spell out how Los Angeles governance works. City Hall is required to conduct "exhaustive efforts" to resolve problems within the neighborhood councils.
Nelson says DONE "is required to make exhaustive efforts to resolve a neighborhood council's problems, prior to decertification." While he accepts the complaint by the neighborhood council that it got "prejudicial and disparate treatment," he also says that DONE was trying to meet the standard of "exhaustive efforts" by asking the BONC board for permission to hold a new election — rather than completely decertify the neighborhood group.
But Commissioner Burman says the BONC commission "didn't feel that taking over the elections was going to solve that problem," so it disbanded the group.
In light of the requirement for "exhaustive efforts," that's a strange position for BONC to take — giving rise to the rumor that Jan Perry ordered the dismantling of the South L.A. neighborhood council. As Nelson points out, his department successfully organized new neighborhood council elections in Venice, and also in Van Nuys. To jump straight to decertification in South L.A. "was clearly a bad decision... Sounds like the decision was already made to decertify them, then everybody just looked for reasons."
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