Pacific Palisades Community Council Needs Transparency

By Gina Ladinsky
Special to the Palisades News

For the 30 years that I have enjoyed living in the Palisades, I have considered the Pacific Palisades Community Council (PPCC) to be a hardworking group of dedicated and selfless Palisadians, who want to make our town the best possible place to live.

Over the past year, the power held by the PPCC became widely publicized as it consistently sent its approval of Caruso’s project to City Hall and our City Councilman, Mike Bonin. The PPCC’s Mission Statement claims it will “. . . be an advocate for the Pacific Palisades to government and private agencies upon those issues where there is broad community agreement.”

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I doubt that anyone would disagree that Swarthmore needs revitalization, but was I the only Palisadian who had concerns with Caruso’s plan as proposed? I went online to Nextdoor Palisades to read the Caruso conversations, and found many other area residents also had concerns. But how would City Hall know about these concerns, since the PPCC informed various officials and departments that we all favored the project?

How was this hardworking group of volunteers allowed to misrepresent the general consensus of the Palisades and mislead City Hall by claiming they speak for all of us?

When the 2016 PPCC Area Representative election rolled around in August, I sat up and paid attention. When a recount was requested for a candidate who lost by one vote, Chris Spitz, the election chair, stated that a recount was not in the bylaws and she refused to order one.

Why would a recount need to be stated in the bylaws? In addition, how can an accurate vote be tallied by two different voting methods, one online and another by hard-copy ballot? To prevent voter fraud would require the utmost scrutiny, checking and re-checking names and addresses. How would the election committee know it was really a homeowner voting? What documentation was used for verification? Who was the Independent Election Administrator (IEA) as required by all neighborhood councils who are city-certified by Empower LA?

The answer is simple. PPCC is not a city-certified neighborhood council and is not a member of EmpowerLA. Yes, PPCC uses the EmpowerLA logo, but it is flying under the radar, enabling PPCC to avoid the many rules and regulations that all other city-certified neighborhood councils must follow. Here is the listing of active councils: http://empowerla.org/councils. You won’t find PPCC listed.

In addition, there was the PPCC’s “non-election” election of alternate representatives in each area. The same candidate who lost the area rep election by only one vote, and who had applied to be an alternate, was not selected.

Another alternate applicant from a different area, who had also run for election as an area rep, and who received many votes of support from her area, was also not selected. I applied as an alternate rep in my area, along with another neighbor. Neither of us was selected as well.

I don’t mind not being selected, but I care that the process had no transparency. So, I emailed Spitz and her Three-Chair Committee, who selected the area alternates, to ask for the criteria used to determine the best alternate rep. She responded by email and referred to the bylaws that give the Three-Chair Committee the authority to make the decision.

Next, I emailed Maryam Zar, the new PPCC Chair, and copied Spitz and asked for: 1.) the minutes of the Three-Chair Committee meeting, and 2.) the public posting location of the agenda 72 hours prior to the meeting. I had hoped this would shed light on the alternate selection process. I sent the email request in mid-October and have not received a reply.

Without minutes and a publicly posted agenda, PPCC is in violation of the Brown Act. Even if the Three-Chair Committee was a closed “executive” meeting, the agenda is required to be posted and minutes are also required.

The advantage of the PPCC not being a city-certified neighborhood council is that it is not held accountable by the city, which has oversight over all certified neighborhood councils.

However, the disadvantages of not being a city-certified neighborhood council far outweigh the advantages. For example, these neighborhood councils each receive public funds of $37,000 a year to support their activities. EmpowerLA also has a Leadership Academy to help board members become more effective, while providing many other support services.

We live in possibly the greatest neighborhood in the Los Angeles area, yet our “broad community agreement” is misrepresented by the PPCC, an organization that has failed to step up to the neighborhood-council plate and become city-certified. How can we as homeowners stop the PPCC from continuing to misrepresent the general consensus of our area and to hold elections that violate many basic election guidelines?

By revealing the facts, perhaps this will inspire residents to force the PPCC to become city-certified, or will ask them to stop the pretense of being our voice.

Why doesn’t our City Councilman, Mike Bonin, hold the PPCC accountable to become a city-certified entity?

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