NEIGHBORHOODS LA-When five Neighborhood Council members - five Board members and one committee stakeholder - resign en mass, it is bound to stir controversy and make great fodder for the general media.
Five women from the North Hills West NC (NHWNC) have done just that … resigned and stirred up controversy.
At the September 19, 2013 NHWNC General Board Meeting, the six female seniors tendered their resignations in protest to what they claimed were “the Council’s gross infractions of Bylaws and Code of Ethics and Civility. Robin Tyler, Debra Francisco, Mary Armenteros, Anita Goldbaum, Patricia Harrison were the Coundil Members and Peggy Burgess, the Charter Stakeholder.
Is it an anomaly? Do things happen on NC Boards that are not all sweetness and light? I am sure that most of you have one or two Board members who feel their way is the right way and sometimes act aggressively in trying to force their opinions on the rest of the council.
It is said (by whom I do not know) that there are two sides to every story and the real version is somewhere in the middle.
Here are the basic facts: In June, the President of the NHWNC resigned his post due to personal problems and a new President, John McGovern was elected. Even though regular Board elections were scheduled for September, the incoming President held elections immediately- with appointments being effective in September.
At the same time the Parliamentarian, Mike Cabo, filed twelve grievances against Board actions with EmpowerLA. He is neither an elected Board member or stakeholder but claims the title of “factual based” by nature of his appointment as parliamentarian.
All but one of the grievances were dismissed by the City Attorney. “Bickering on the Board” was eventually dismissed in return for the NC receiving sensitivity and parliamentary procedure training. If “bickering” among Board members is a recognized offense, most NC’s are in trouble…including mine.
That should have ended the situation. Instead it escalated into a full battle with five of the female Board members taking umbrage at the verbal and written communication by McGovern and his newly appointed Outreach Chair, David A. Hyman.
According to Robin Tyler, former Vice-President, “We are all senior, professional women who became involved with NHWNC to be of service to our community and make a difference. We had high hopes and goals for this council, many of which we were able to accomplish.
“At the June 4 Special Board Meeting, there was an unethical and probably illegal election of a new president (the election was deemed legal by EmpowerLA). Since then, there have been flagrant and continuous violations of the Bylaws, the Brown Act, Code of Ethics and Civility and the City Charter Plan for Neighborhood Councils. There have been many overt displays of discrimination against the senior female board and committee members as well as blatant sexism, harassment, unprofessional and disrespectful written and verbal communications. All were reported to DONE and the City Attorney.”
Ms. Tyler went on to say that until this last weekend, EmpowerLA and the City Attorney had ignored the interference by Mike Cabo and the insulting communications from McGovern and Hyman.
I went to Grayce Liu, General Manager, EmpowerLA, and asked her for an explanation. She commented,
“The Department, in conjunction with the Office of the City Attorney, have addressed alleged Brown Act violations with the NHWNC promptly when they have been brought to our attention. Not all of the allegations were valid. In a letter that I sent on July 16, 2013 to the Board, I acknowledged their continuing factional issues, and we brought in the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils(VANC) Resource Board to assist with mentoring. Meetings were attended by Judy Daniels, Resource Board coordinator and two of her committee members.
“The first time a workplace violence issue was presented to the City regarding NHWNC was to the City Attorney's Office on September 3, 2013 whereupon they immediately started working with the Board members making the allegations. A City Attorney was set to attend the NHWNC meeting to observe, and this was the meeting where the resignations occurred, which surprised the City Attorney's Office since they were investigating the situation.
“I was disappointed as well because the Department staff and I provided a lot of support for not only these Board members/stakeholders who resigned, but to the Board as a whole for many months on the other issues. Therefore, I am really surprised that we are now being accused of doing nothing for months when a lot of staff (both our Department and City Attorney's Office) and VANC Resource Board volunteer time went into trying to remedy the situation. I am in contact with the Board members who resigned though and hope to clear up their misunderstandings.”
In all honesty I read some of the emails from both John McGovern and David Hyman and was appalled. They seemed to be right out of a bad chapter of the TV show “Mad Men”. Here is a sample from John McGovern“
To: d brown >; Robin Tyler.
Sent: Tue, Sep 17, 2013 4:37 pm
Subject: RE: ILLEGAL RULES AND ELECTIONS MEETING AT THE LIBRARY ON MONDAY, SEPT. 16
Dear GOD; please send me 250 young conservative open minded students from Monroe High School that have not been contaminated by the Liberals that have destroyed our great city and our Nation . A few misoganysts and misogamists are OK if you really want to stir the pot .
It's OK I don't mind - I can handle whatever YOU want me to.
Your Humblest Servent, (sic)
David Hyman’s contribution was addressed to Robin Tyler “Oink, Oink! Talk about sexist remarks, you're a legend in your own mind with comments like the below. Hope you have a good fast next week for Lord knows you need to atone for your comments. I do hope you will consider leaving the Outreach committee because with your attitude, you turn folks off.
I had read David Hyman’s response to one of the newspapers and asked him about the mass resignations of five of the. NHWNC Board.
He said “In response, there are two sides to every issue and this one is no different. I am the only holdover and original Board member on this North Hills West Board. The other 12 ran as a slate in opposition to the prospective Restaurant Depot development on Woodley & Chase. The resignation of the five Brown Act violators (The five women who resigned) has been well received by the stakeholders I have talked to, for I live and work in this community. This group of Brown Act violators originally consisted of four members but a couple months ago one of them, Robin Tyler, had her secretary whom resides on her Chase Street property run to fill a vacancy.”
I was unable, with my limited knowledge of the Brown Act, to discern where there had been violations. The City Attorney is investigating all the charges. It is all quite titillating in a sad kind of way. Here are five professional women, who did some great things for their community and their loss will leave an enormous hole in the NHWNC. It is not for me to judge who is right and who is wrong but this entire nasty business does not belong in any Neighborhood Council.
We are volunteers - we are supposed to help our communities and have a good time doing it. I hope that NHWNC rebuilds confidence from its stakeholders and that the “fearsome five” will continue to offer their community support and help regardless of the form it takes.
(Denyse Selesnick is 2nd Vice-President of the Tarzana Neighborhood Council and a contributor to CityWatch covering the Neighborhood Councils.)
Vol 11 Issue 78
Pub: Sept 27, 2013