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Santa Monica Neighborhood Group Chair Resigns After Lengthy Battle

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

October 24, 2012 -- Chair of the Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition Valerie Griffin resigned from the board Monday after almost five months of infighting over an election held last summer which she called a violation of the group's bylaws.

Over the course of the battle, the board has lost six of its old members, either through resignation or because they did not seek reelection. Only two of the old board remain with 10 members who were elected, despite Griffin's protests, at the group's annual meeting Saturday. (“Santa Monica Neighborhood Group Battle May Be Near an End,” November 22, 2012)

“I don't think I'd be able to work with this board,” said Larry Isaacs, one of the board members who announced his resignation Monday. “I've had it. Why fight it? At this point in my life, I don't need the aggravation.”

Wilmont's troubles started in June 9 when, at the group's annual meeting Griffin and the old board tried to postpone elections due to problems with their membership list, members demanded the elections be held anyway.

Eight members of the organization, many of whom were upset that the group endorsed a project that would put up to 120 new condos on the Miramar Hotel site, decided to make a bid.

The group has since reversed its position after the members supported a motion by Council member -- and Wilmont resident -- Kevin McKeown that rescinded the group's endorsement of of the project.

After the votes were counted, however, Griffin sought legal counsel and terminated the memberships of those who participated in or facilitated the election.

For nearly five months, she and most of the members of the old board have maintained that the June 9 election was illegal.

“I cannot be part of a Board of Directors elected under those conditions,” Griffin wrote in her resignation letter. “I cannot be on a Board with people who have treated Wilmont, other Board members, and me the way we have been treated publicly, in email, and in the press.”

“Wilmont will now have a board that is full of people who are clueless running the organization,” she said Tuesday, claiming that most of them are relatively new members of Wilmont. “I wish the organization well, but it's going to be difficult for them.”

Of the 10 elected to the board Saturday, eight of them were the same candidates who ran on June 9.

“We're trying to figure out how to proceed from here, in terms of positive things,” said former Wilmont Chair Jeanne Dodson, one of the eight who ran in the June 9 election.

“From the beginning, our plan was to take the empty seats and work with the board,” Dodson said. “It's too bad we went through this.”

But she said she was thankful to the board members who were willing to move forward.

Even so, there's some house-cleaning to be done, said Dodson, including taking a look at the group's bank accounts and, she said, there's still the question of where the money for the legal battle came from.

Griffin said Tuesday that she would not disclose the source of the money, but that no developers or outside interests were funding the legal battle.

“From what I have heard, the books, membership records and finances are disorganized and incomplete, and one of the first priorities will be to get all these things straightened out,” said Reinhard Kargl, another one of the newly-elected board members.

“I am grateful that Diane Krakauer and Rosemary Sostarich will help with the transition. This will be invaluable,” he said, referring to two members of the old board. Krakauer did not seek reelection and will be leaving the board.

“I am, and we all are, glad that this sordid affair is finally over,” he said.

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