Gwen Vuchsas, the only person to serve as president of the Neighborhood Council of West-chester/Playa del Rey since its certification in 2002, has resigned from the post.
In a letter to Neighborhood Council members dated Tuesday, September 19th, Vuchsas said she has decided to step down as president, effective immediately, citing personal and family reasons.
Vuchsas also informed council members that she will not seek reelection in the Neighborhood Council board of directors election, scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday, October 3rd and 4th, and has asked to be removed from the ballot.
“Though we began on rather rocky footing, our Neighborhood Council has come together and truly made a difference in our community, and I am proud of our successes,” Vuchsas wrote to council members.
The resignation comes after she also recently stepped down as president of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Pacific Area Boosters Association, a nonprofit group that supports police youth programs such as Police Explorers.
Vuchsas’s resignation from the two leadership positions has occurred while police say they are investigating a situation in which money was reported missing from the Pacific Area Boosters Association.
An LAPD media relations spokesperson told The Argonaut that there is an ongoing grand theft investigation being conducted by the LAPD commercial crimes division downtown regarding the situation with the Pacific Area Boosters Association funds.
There have been no charges filed in the case, police said.
Vuchsas did not return phone calls from The Argonaut seeking comment.
Cedric Sutherland, who replaced Vuchsas as boosters association president earlier this month, declined to comment on the situation, saying only that it was being investigated.
However, boosters association treasurer Mary Richert told The Argonaut that the issue was looked into and there is currently no money missing from the association account.
“There has been an investigation and at the completion of the investigation, there are no missing funds,” Richert said.
In notifying the Neighborhood Council of her resignation, Vuchsas wrote that the council has had many accomplishments during her four years as president.
Various achievements include the council taking a stand against Los Angeles International Airport expansion and helping to stop it, fighting for a full environmental impact report for the Toes Beach dunes project in Playa del Rey, and donating funds to pave the parking lot at Nielsen Field in Westchester, she said.
The news of Vuchsas’s resignation came as a surprise to some Neighborhood Council members, who said she has done many things for the community over the years.
“It’s going to be a great loss to the Neighborhood Council,” council treasurer Steve Donell said. “She’s been a great leader and she’s done a terrific job.”
Mike Arias, who will serve as interim Neighborhood Council president, added, “I hope people recognize what she’s done for this community.”
But Neighborhood Council member Denny Schneider said he thinks a change in leadership will be a good thing for the council.
“I’m not sorry to see (Vuchsas) stepping down from the Neighborhood Council but I’m disappointed that she’s having personal problems,” Schneider said.
Donell said Vuchsas was a “very active president” but both he and Schneider added that they are confident in the leadership skills of Arias.
“I feel Mike has very high integrity and will do a wonderful job as interim president,” Schneider said.
Arias, the interim president until Neighborhood Council members vote for new officers in January, said he expects the council to move on and keep things “business as usual.”
“My plan is to keep everything as usual,” Arias said. “I think the Neighborhood Council has done some very good things for the community and I’m hoping we can continue to do that.”