To: Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council Board/Stakeholders
From: Greg Nelson, General Manager, Dept. of Neighborhood Empowerment
In previous communications, we warned about the problems that would likely be created if the Neighborhood Council were to proceed with its June 27th election. We offered alternatives and solutions, but were ignored. At the time, and again now, we offer our assistance and advice to assure that the Venice community will once again have a Neighborhood Council to call its own.
We have received a number of questions following the release of the final arbiter's decision to void the June 27, 2004 Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council election of candidates for office.
As mentioned in that message a few days ago, we are not able to answer all of the "what next?" questions at this time. This matter, as you might have guessed, once again has us confronting new issues. We want to deal with the issues in a thoughtful way because they are likely to lead to the creation of new policies and procedures for other Neighborhood Councils that will find themselves in the same situation.
The decisions of a final arbiter are final. There is no administrative appeal process.
The decision of the final arbiter has left the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council without the ability to assemble a quorum and conduct business.
Therefore, it is our fiduciary responsibility to suspend the ability of the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council to access the funds it has been provided through the Neighborhood Council Funding Program. It would be unfair to vendors and others to deny payments to them for expenditures that were made properly. We are in the process of examining the financial records of the Neighborhood Council.
The ratification of proposed bylaw amendments by the voters on June 27, 2004 was not addressed by the final arbiter. Therefore, those proposed bylaw amendments, and the ones approved earlier by the stakeholders are in the hands of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. Any amendments to bylaws require the approval of our department or the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners. This presents us with a new and complex situation, and we have not yet decided the best way to proceed. Because there is not a governing board that can conduct business, there isn't an immediate need to resolve thi! s problem.
If there will be a community meeting on Monday, November 22, 2004 for the purpose of discussing this election matter, my staff and I will be present.
If it necessary to do so, we will arrange additional meetings to help the Venice community through this difficult time.
Among the questions and comments we have received are:
Q. Can the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council be directed to not hold any meetings?
A. No. We don't have the legal ability to direct any Neighborhood Council to do anything, except as it relates the Neighborhood Council Funding Program. And in this case, there is no governing board to which to issue an order even if we had the power. We're not going to seek injunctions, bar the doors to meeting rooms, or bust up community gatherings even if they choose to call themselves the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council. The fact is that, presently, no group of people can conduct business as the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council. We are notifying all City agencies.
Q. What happens to all of the Neighborhood Council's records?
A. We're addressing that. Again, there is no clear legal authority that we have to direct individual board members to do anything.
Q. I will not attend or participate in any meetings of the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood.
A. Our goal, as described in the City Charter, is to encourage public participation in government. Participating through a Neighborhood Council is but one way to do that. The Neighborhood Council will be back, and we hope that you won't be idle in the meantime. We encourage you to continue your support and involvement in the wide range of organizations and activities that occur in Venice and citywide.
Q. The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment should have notified the challenged board members before they notified the others.
A. As we have done before in the case of the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council and other Neighborhood Councils, we notify all of the interested parties at the same time, including the City Council, the Mayor, the media, our commissioners, and those who submitted the challenges.
Q. How can concerned Venice residents help you help us recreate a working, representative local Venice Neighborhood Council Board as soon as possible?
A. We will provide you with all of the help that we can. That's our job and our passion. As good place to start is to find at least one leader whose focus is all of Venice, and who is dedicated to finding a way that diverse people and organizations that make up Venice can get together and agree on a way that they can share seats and voices "at the table." As we mentioned before, when the efforts are limited to determining which group wins and which group loses, the chances of succeeding as a Neighborhood Council are remote. Neighborhood Councils were always about bringing together the diverse elements of the community and discovering how to find areas of agreement, and how to! honorably disagree.
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