Payment of a quarterly installment of city funds for the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council has been suspended by the city.

The City of Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) said it was freezing the city funds for the local group because the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council held a candidate and bylaws election Sunday, June 27th, after the department recommended that the election be postponed.

Neighborhood Councils in the city that have been certified are eligible to receive up to $50,000 annually from the city.

In an e-mail from the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment general manager, Greg Nelson, to Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council board members, Nelson states:

“Regrettably, we have to temporarily suspend the ability of the Grass Roots Neighborhood Council to spend the money that it has been provided through the Neighborhood Council Funding Program.

“The terms of most of the Board members expired on June 30, 2004; the most recent election has not been finalized because the challenges have not been resolved — in fact, we don’t even know who the arbiter is; and there is a significant question surrounding the legitimacy of the entire election.

“The Commercial Prepaid Card — a debit card provided by the city to access Neighborhood Council funds — has been disabled, and we will not process any check requests for expenditures made hereafter until further notice.

“Shortly, you will receive a communication from us asking for additional information that will help us find a resolve to this problem.”

The Grass Root Venice board was warned that delivery of the funding Neighborhood Councils rely on from the city to operate, could be halted if the Grass Roots organization did not heed the recommendation of Nelson to postpone the Grass Roots Venice election at least 90 days.

“In the absence of a citywide election policy, admittedly the Department [of Neighborhood Empowerment] has no legal authority to force a Neighborhood Council to postpone an election, however DONE does have the right to withhold financial support and its ‘sanction’ to an election we feel it is not in the best interest of the stakeholders,” Nelson told the Grass Roots Venice board Friday, June 11th.

“I’m very disappointed with Greg Nelson’s decision,” said Jim Smith, Grass Roots Venice treasurer.

“I hope that this [suspension of funding] is only temporary, but if it isn’t we’ll raise our own money,” said Smith.

Nelson was unavailable for comment regarding the issue.

Election results are expected to be certified Friday, July 9th, after which challenges to the election can be submitted.

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