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McKnight Special Meeting 8/05/15

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Special Board Meeting Re: Election Problems

August 05, 2015

Approved August 11, 2015

Minutes McKnight Neighborhood Council

Board Members Present (15): Lamont E Clemons (Pres), Lloyd A Creswell (Asst Sec/Clerk), Jack Dubose, Tawreak Eddington (Asst Treas), Brandi Gamble (Sec/Clerk), Art Jones, Colin Kirby (Treas), Walter Kroll, Bryan McFarland, Elizabeth O’Gilvie, Henry Payne, Synthia Scott-Mitchell, Elizabeth Stevens, Ben Swan, Jr, Paul Swenson

Board Members Not Present (0):

Administrative Staff:   Elizabeth Lederman

 

  • Meeting convened at St Peter’s Episcopal Church at 45 Buckingham Street at 6:15 pm.
  • Call to order/welcome by Pres Lamont C. Audience introductions waived by Pres Lamont C.
  • Reps Elizabeth O and Elizabeth S asked that they be included, as it was usual practice for the audience to identify themselves and indicate if they were neighborhood members or guests.
  • Pres Lamont C agreed that they could introduce themselves if they wanted to but did not have to identify whether or not they were neighborhood members or guests.
  • Members of the Board introduced themselves followed by audience introductions.Neighborhood Members & Guests: (Approximately 50 people attending, too numerous to list—see sign-in sheets)
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Meeting Notes

  • President Lamont C offered opening remarks, encouraging cordiality and respect, and reminded everyone that this was

 

  • ”all about the neighborhood.”
  • He said he received a letter from [election chair] Elizabeth Lederman and [out-going President] Walter Kroll asking him if he was a resident. He showed his driver’s license to Board members sitting near him, and said he had voted with 64 Thompson Street as his address. He said where he slept was “nobody’s business”.
  • He questioned the “protocol” mentioned in the letter of asking new board members to verify their residency, and reasoned that if it was protocol then the other three new board members should also have received a letter. He asked the other new Board members if they had received the same letter, and they said no.
  • He expressed skepticism that there were actually any problems with the election, observing that McKnight had no problems with their elections for the last twenty years, and it was only when he “came home” that reports of problems occurred.
  • Rep Tawreak E responded to Pres Lamont C’s concerns about being singled out, noting that it was not only because he was new but that few people in the neighborhood seemed to know him, and he had only been to one neighborhood meeting earlier in the year.
  • Rep Elizabeth O agreed, and noted further that the protocol referred to in the letter in fact referred to following up on complaints received from residents on Thompson Street alleging that Pres Lamont C did not live on the street. The other new Board members were generally known in the neighborhood, and no one on their streets was contacting current Board representatives with complaints that those new representatives did not live here in McKnight.

 

__________________________________________________

 

  • Election Chair Elizabeth L submitted a report of election problems, a copy of which was provided to each Board member.
  • The election report outlined the problems which were being brought forward by the election chairperson to the Board for their review, “in the order in which they came to light.”

 

  1. Allegations that candidates whose names were placed on the ballot on Saturday morning of the election unfairly influenced the election outcome (June 14)
  2. Allegations that a newly elected candidate does not live at the address under which they filed for election,
  3. and does not in fact live in the neighborhood (June 30)
  4. Failure to request voter identification during the actual election, as provided for in the bylaws (July 5)
  5. Allegations of election misconduct by a candidate (July 14)
  6. Indications of possible election tampering (July 19)
  7.  
  • In the report, candidates’ names were redacted, and the report stated that “it is their prerogative to identify themselves if they wish to do so.” Voter sign-in sheets were also included with the names redacted, leaving only the voting addresses and districts for the Board’s examination.
  • The election chairperson requested that the report be read aloud into the minutes by the Board Secretary Brandi G.
  • Pres Lamont C after conferring with a couple of other Board members denied the request.
  • She then requested that a few copies be circulated to the audience, if the Board was agreeable, reporting that she had been asked at the beginning of the meeting for a copy by an audience member, and when she declined to give him one, he had said that open meeting law entitled him to a copy. Several audience members then called out for copies.
  • Rep Art J informed the audience that the report was for the Board only, and that the Board could go into a closed session if they so chose, and the audience could be cleared at any time.
  • Rep Ben S differed on the latter point, observing that all Board meetings were in fact open to the public.
  • Pres Lamont C once again declined to disclose the report to audience members, but after continued requests as the meeting progressed, Rep Bryan M offered the following motion:

 

  • MOTION: (BM moved) to send the report out to the audience; (?ES seconded); (LEC called for discussion);
  • Those opposed expressed various opinions that the report “had no value”, “lacked merit”, should be “moved past” and that there should be a motion instead to refine the bylaws. (LEC called the question); Yea, 5; Nay, 7; Abstentions, 3. The motion was defeated.
  • The final determination was that the election report would only be available as part of the written record of minutes at a later date.
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  • Rep Elizabeth O expressed her deep concern about the false accusations made against her by [unknown] individuals who claimed to have photos of her “stuffing the ballot box”. She reported that she initially learned of the accusation after Councilor Bud Williams had phoned [out-going President] Walter K just before the neighborhood meeting [on July 14] in which he alerted Walter K that there were people coming to the meeting to accuse her of stuffing the ballot box.
  • She emphasized that when the election materials were examined as a result of the accusations, that no problems were found in her district, but that problems were uncovered in the other districts.
  • She further observed that it was only when she placed her name on the ballot to run for President against Rep Lamont C [and Rep Colin K] that any accusations were made. 
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  • Councilor Bud Williams [present in the audience] assured Rep Elizabeth O that he himself never made any allegations against her and that he regretted that she had been told about them. He explained that he was only giving Walter K the “heads up”, and would do the same for any other neighborhood council who was facing the same situation.
  • He also wanted to know who had authorized the “public email” in which his name was mentioned. Pres Lamont C also questioned who authorized the email.
  • Election Chairperson Elizabeth L responded as follows:
  • The email to which he was referring was not a public email, but a private email sent to McKnight Board members.
  • It was from the Election Chair to the Board recommending that a special meeting be called to review problems with the election.
  • In answer as to why his name was mentioned in the private email, she explained that the two most urgent reasons why she had recommended the special meeting were because Councilor Williams had contacted City departments for information about how to contest the McKnight election while openly mentioning Candidate Elizabeth O in connection with alleged election misconduct; and that his “heads up” to Rep Walter K actually had led to the discovery of serious election irregularities which included extra ballots and false voting addresses, though these were in no way connected to Rep Elizabeth O.
  • She further emphasized that the actual election report of problems, though not available to him as an audience member, in no way reported that he had made any allegations.

 

  • Councilor Williams responded that he had only made the inquiries about how to contest the McKnight election on behalf of constituents, and not himself; and emphasized again that he was in no way involved in any accusations or allegations.
  • Rep Lloyd C observed that he felt the issues were resolved and he was sorry that this had come back on Councilor Williams, and that it was understandable that he had to respond to constituents who were contacting him with problems.
  • Rep Elizabeth O addressed Councilor Williams further, observing that she was also his constituent, and although she did not know him well—he had known her and her family for a long time. She questioned why he did not come to her directly when these accusations were made known to him, rather than going to the City and making phone calls about it.
  • She expressed how deeply offended she was by the fact that he did not show the respect and decency to come to her first—especially when he knew her well enough to be aware of the fact that her work in the community was always about lifting people up, that she served on the Boards of several non-profits, and that damage to her reputation was not just about her and her family, but would also affect the people and organizations with whom she worked.
  • She reflected on the seriousness of the fact that once one’s reputation is damaged it is very difficult to move forward, even when the charges prove false—and that a reputation of integrity and our good name are the only true legacy we leave to our children that is of any real value.  

 

  • ___________________________________________________________
  • Rep Ben S observed that he had a long history with the Council, and that it was always the prevailing intention to keep things honest, and that he was confident the Council would continue to operate out of the Bylaws.
  • Rep Paul S agreed, observing that the process needs to be followed and the Bylaws defined and refined when problems arise, and that this would be done going forward.
  • Rep Ben S further observed that despite the irregularities, the numbers involved did not change the outcome of the election.
  • Damian Phillips, an audience member, identified himself as a former Board representative and a candidate in the June 13 election. He contended that if the bylaws had been followed, particularly the requirement to ask for identification from voters, and the deadline for filing papers had been observed, that many of the problems would not have occurred—and he called for the election to be voided.
  • Rep Ben S reiterated the fact that the election outcome was unchanged, and he urged everyone to move forward—reflecting that “elections come and go” and that it was important to appreciate the energy of the people who want to do the work—and that the corporation of the Council included as members everyone who lives in the neighborhood.
  • Audience members Deb Papagno and Elaine Awand expressed serious concern about the level of conflict and some of the behaviors during the meeting.
  • Jesse Lederman, also from the audience, identified himself as a former neighborhood Board member, and observed that the stress and challenge of working through problems was hard sometimes—but that he has had many opportunities to work in other neighborhoods and get to know other councils, and it is clear that McKnight is still one of the most effective. He observed that the process of working things through together is what democracy is all about, and that he was certain the Council would continue to thrive.
  • __________________________________________________________________
  • MOTION: (?BS moved) to revisit the Bylaws making sure to define the election process more clearly; (LAC seconded);     ___________________________________________________________________
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  • (LEC called the question); Motion carried unanimously.
  • Rep Ben S acknowledged that it was proper for the election chairperson to report the problems of the election to the Board.
  • Rep Tawreak E asked if the problems of the election were resolved to which several Board representatives answered in the affirmative, and he asked further if the Report of Election Problems would be included in the minutes and that was also confirmed.
  • Rep Elizabeth S said that she thought the issue of the filing deadline being flexible warranted further discussion.
  • Rep Paul S responded that it was discussed, would be addressed in the bylaws, and would not happen going forward.ADJOURNMENT:   MOTION: (LAC moved) to adjourn; (HP seconded); (LEC called); motion carried.
  • Submitted for approval by Elizabeth Lederman, Administrative Staff, 08/11/2015
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