21 Aug 2014
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Elections End Disorderly Wilmont Meeting

Emotions were charged Saturday as membership conducts an election without the OK of current leadership.

Elections End Disorderly Wilmont Meeting

They were supposed to be postponed, but elections were held Saturday to fill eight seats on the governing board of the Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition, where members say they are fed up with "authoritarian" style leadership.

The results, however, were uncertain. 

Membership of nine candidates could not be verified by the time voting took place, and current members of the Board of Directors, two of whom are seeking reelection, contend the elections were invalid because they were not on Saturday's agenda.

"This is illegal," said longtime board member Larry Isaacs, whose current term ends in 2013.  "It is not a true election because we do not know who is a member."

If the elections are ultimately certified and the incumbents lose their seats, the board will consist predominately of members who oppose the --the biggest development project the neighborhood will have seen in decades. The revitalization was endorsed months ago by the board, reportedly without much input from the membership.

The meeting, not surprisingly, was unruly from the get-go.

Earlier this week, the candidates accused the Board of Directors of creating arbitrary rules, beyond what exists in the coalition's bylaws, including having been a voting member for the previous year, attended at least three meetings and added to the functioning of the organization.

"Right now, it looks like you're making [the rules] up to prevent people from running against current board members," said candidate Alin Wall. 

Directors made accusations, too. They said most of the candidates were not active in Wilmont, rarely showing up to meetings, and were backed by an opposing corporate interest of the Miramar. Then, Chair Valerie Griffinbecause the coalition's longtime membership chair, who keeps records on note cards, was hospitalized with a broken hip.

Within minutes of opening Saturday morning's meeting, Griffin was quickly met with outbursts from members demanding an election. The membership quickly voted to replace her as chair and she responded, "the meeting is adjourned." The board's vice chair took the gavel, agreeing to conduct the elections in spite of objections from Griffin.

"I'm sorry Valerie, I'm in disagreement... we can let an election go and walk out of here knowing we did the democratic thing," said vice chair Albin Gielicz.

Eleven newcomers had submitted applications to run in the election, but two--including an employee of the Huntley Hotel--dropped out to give their peers better chances of winning. 

It's a record number of applications for Wilmont.

Some said they were galvanized by the endorsement of the Miramar, others said they were frustrated with a perceived lack of transparency and leadership who didn't consult members before making big decisions.

"Bitch is all you do," Isaacs responded. 

"It's not about control issues, we've been trying to get people on the board for years... [but] they need to come to meetings," he said after the meeting.   

Those in attendance cast their ballots in sealed envelopes, on which their names and addresses were written. They slipped them into a white box that was sealed shut with taped and signed by six members. Gielicz was to take the box home for safe keeping until it is re-opened at a future public meeting, when the memberships will be validated and ballots counted.

Griffin said she would seek advice from an attorney.

Candidates seemed to have a brighter outlook. 

"Hopefully everyone will be able to work together now," candidate Jim Picknell said. "Albin allowed democracy to function, he deserves some applause."  

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