Board members of the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council (GRVNC) were told in person by Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) general manager Greg Nelson, Monday, November 22nd, that the Neighborhood Council could not conduct business as a City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council.

In a letter Nelson e-mailed to GRVNC board members Tuesday, November 16th, Nelson stated that the Neighborhood Council’s June election was found to be invalid due to conducting an election of board members at the same time amendments to council bylaws were voted on.

Nelson was delayed from speaking to the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council because his presentation was not on the agenda.

Several audience members insisted that the council put on hold all agenda items until Nelson was given a chance to speak to the board and the audience regarding the status of the council.

Prior to Nelson’s presentation, several Venice stakeholders voiced their frustration with the local Neighborhood Council.

“The last time I was in this room I said that I would never be here for another board meeting,” said Venice resident Marta Evry. “Well this is not a board meeting, so here I am.”

Board member Michael McGuffin ultimately made a motion to adjourn the Neighborhood Council board meeting and move directly into a public forum. Board members voted in favor of McGuffin’s motion, the board meeting adjourned and the public forum began.

When Nelson was then given the opportunity to inform the Grass Roots board and the public of the Neighborhood Council’s status, he provided similar information to that in his November 16th letter to GRVNC board members.

Nelson said that the Human Relations Commission of the City of Los Angeles — selected by GRVNC to be the final arbiter for its June 27th election — has ruled that the Neighborhood Council’s election is invalid.

Once the arbitration process begins, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment has nothing to do with the findings, Nelson said.

Suzanne Thompson, Grass Roots Venice president, was mainly concerned with the financial status of the Neighborhood Council and asked Nelson whether contracts and financial commitments entered into by the council would be honored by the city.

“I hope these bills get paid,” said Thompson.

Nelson responded by saying that all money spent by Grass Roots Venice up until the release of his Tuesday, November 16th letter invalidating the council’s June election would be reimbursed by the city.

Nelson said that Neighborhood Council financial commitments not yet settled, would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Concerning actions taken by the Venice council board, Nelson said that those actions would stand if the board was able to provide proof that an item was on an agenda, minutes of the meeting were produced, and if the action was relating to appointments of Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council board of directors — whether that was ratified by stakeholders.

Venice stakeholder and former Grass Roots board member Dede Audet said she was glad to learn that the Neighborhood Council’s election was invalidated.

“I’m very happy you (board) are in the position you are,” said Audet.

McGuffin suggested that Grass Roots Venice continue to meet as the “interim” Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council and discuss the process of conducting another election as soon as possible.

Nelson said that he and his department staff would be working with the city attorney in the coming weeks in order to provide insight as to what the Neighborhood Council can do to organize another election.

“We need representatives that will represent all of Venice, not just a select few,” a stakeholder shouted.