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O'Day Appeals SMRR Endorsement Vote

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By Jorge Casuso

September 3, 2020 -- Councilmember Terry O'Day on Wednesday challenged actions by Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) leadership he said illegally denied him the powerful group's endorsement.

In a hard-hitting letter that in large part reads like a legal complaint, O'Day claims SMRR Co-Chair Michael Soloff intentionally prevented the membership from voting to endorse him.

The four-page letter calls for SMRR's Steering Committee "to remedy the improper, unlawful and undemocratic actions of Convention chair Soloff" and give O'Day the group's endorsement "as soon as possible."

"Those who were present at the Convention know what occurred," O'Day wrote. "The Convention chair used his position to subvert the will of the majority.

"Timing is critical here," O'Day added. "The campaign for City Council is underway and many Santa Monica voters will be voting well in advance of election day in November."

O'Day sought SMRR's backing at Sunday's convention after missing the August 8 deadline to notify the group that he would seek their endorsement.

O'Day contends he was unaware of the "rule," which he claims is not authorized by the bylaws.

SMRR officials counter the deadline was clearly spelled out in the newsletter sent to the group's membership and posted online.

According to SMRR's website, "Candidates who wish to seek SMRR’s endorsement should notify SMRR as soon as possible and in no case later than August 8." Candidates were asked to email or mail their intention.

The Steering Committee last month rejected O'Day's claim to be considered by an 8 to 5 vote, spurring his supporters to call on the membership to back the incumbent Council member at Sunday's online convention.

O'Day's supporters made motions for his name to be added for consideration, but Soloff ruled O'Day did not meet the requirements in the SMRR bylaws because he was not a member in good standing.

A motion to override Soloff's ruling and declare O'Day eligible was approved by a vote of 61 to 39 percent.

Soloff, however, ruled "erroneously" that the motion requited a two-thirds vote of the members for approval, according to O'Day's letter.

The letter challenges Soloff's decision on legal grounds, citing articles and sections of the group's bylaws.

"Chair Soloff’s determination that his ruling could only be reversed by a two-thirds vote of the members -- in addition to being undemocratic -- was wrong as a matter of law for several reasons."

The letter goes on to cite Article V, Section 5 of the bylaws that "expressly incorporates" Robert's Rules of Order and Article VII, Section 48 that lists motions that require a two-thirds vote and do not include overriding the decision of a chair.

The letter also addresses what constitutes "members in good standing."

O'Day notes he paid his dues three days before the convention, according to the letter, but Soloff counters he had not paid the dues "at the deadline for submitting the questionnaire or at the date set for interviews." 

Soloff, a lawyer, told the Lookout that he stands by Sunday's rulings, which were made in consultation with SMRR's parliamentarian, Santa Monica Collge (SMC) Board Chair Nacy Greenstein, a founder of SMRR.

It was determined that the rules of the day that guided the convention superseded Robert's Rules of order, Soloff said.

"You can't have a result of a motion that violates the bylaws," Soloff said. "My ruling was that the motion was not in oder becase it violates the bylaws."

Soloff said he suggested an option that "would have opened up the endorsement process for all four of the four-year council candidate slots to all five persons who had expressed interest after the deadline but were turned down for failing to timely request an endorsement."

After incumbents Gleam Davis, Ana Jara and Ted Winterer won the group’s backing a motion was made to reopen the endorsement process for a fourth candidate, Soloff said. The motion was rejected.

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