By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
They agreed that first, the votes cast June 9 must be counted to verify the new board. A ballot box containing 57 votes from that day had been sealed and placed with Friends of Sunset Park president Zina Josephs.
But on June 18 the burning question was: "Where's Marcia?" — Marcia Carter, the hospitalized octogenarian who held the sole membership list of the Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition member's names.
That list was widely known to be in Carter's locked apartment.
Suspicions about how sick Carter really was tore through the group on June 18. "She can't still be in the hospital," somebody said. "Can someone step in and stop this?" asked another resident, alluding to "stalling tactics." "Maybe the Jimmy Carter Institute," someone offered.
On July 7, the Rebels met at Santa Monica's Church of the Nazarene to finally count the votes inside the ballot box.
Lacking the membership list — still locked inside Carter's apartment — the Rebels asked a respected member of the Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition not involved in the campaign dispute to try to match voters' names against receipts, canceled checks and Paypal payments showing who had paid dues of $5. Some coalition members who voted provided their documentation at the meeting.
It may not have been the Jimmy Carter Institute, but a panel of three, including former Santa Monica City Council member Kelly Olsen, Santa Monica attorney and professional mediator Carole Aragon and Lauren Murray, a cash manager for Latham & Watkins, oversaw the vote count.
"I'm just here to help with the democratic process," Olsen said. "I've never seen or heard of anything like this."
When the count was over, the Rebels apparently had won eight seats.
On July 13, the apparently unseated Wilmont board lashed out.
In a letter from Griffin, the group called itself the "current board" and said it had "terminated the membership of a rival group of Santa Monica residents who staged an improper takeover of the June 9 community meeting."
Each newly elected board member received a cease-and-desist letter from Kammerling, the old board's attorney, claiming that they had failed to "exercise self-control" or "listen to others respectfully," among other things.
Griffin tells L.A. Weekly that recently, the apparently ousted board members finally retrieved the elusive membership list from Carter's apartment.
Griffin compared the list — on handwritten index cards, because Carter does not use a computer — with the members' payment records. She says five of the 11 Rebel candidates joined the coalition less than 21 days before running, an alleged violation of the bylaws. She says the membership status of another Rebel has not been confirmed.
As for the missing Carter, Griffin says she is at a board-and-care facility.
The battle for the Miramar Hotel project — or, at least, for the community group whose views could play a role in its viability — seems bound for lawyers' offices, or maybe for the courts.
"Do we accept the terms of the letters?" asks Reinhard Kargl, who created the Rebels' website. "The answer is definitely no."
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