A month after losing its chair following a contentious board appointment process, the Mar Vista Community Council welcomed two new members Dec. 13.
Residents Yvette Molinaro and Michael Millman were nominated by new chair Sharon Commins and unanimously elected by the board to one at-large seat and one zone director position.
“I’m pleased and proud to submit Yvette for the nomination,” said Commins, who was elected by the board earlier. “I think that she will be a great asset to the board.”
Commins had previously served as the board’s first vice president.
The December meeting was the first since former chair Albert Olson’s resignation.
Last month, Olson left the council after his choice to fill the vacancy created when at-large director Laura Bodensteiner resigned in September was rejected. The former chair had chosen Molinaro, an attorney and a Mar Vista resident.
Olson said he believed that by denying the appointment of Molinaro, other board members were hoping that he would eventually nominate another candidate, Chelsea McFarland, for the seat.
“It has become clear to me that this process will become even messier if I continue down the only path that I can in good conscience pursue, that is, the nomination of the candidate I have already put forward,” the former chair wrote after he stepped down from the local council. “Because of this, I am hopeful that my resignation will defuse some of the problem, and allow Ms. Molinaro – or some other equally qualified candidate – to take their rightful seat on the board.”
McFarland, who does not reside in Mar Vista, is identified as a factual basis stakeholder, a person who “affirms” a stake or interest in a neighborhood. Under Mar Vista’s bylaws, she would be eligible for an at-large directors seat.
In a Dec. 1 interview with The Argonaut, BongHwan Kim, the general manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which oversees the city’s neighborhood councils, said any advisory councils must abide by their bylaws. Kim said if someone were appointed to a seat that violated the council’s bylaws, DONE would investigate the claim.
“If it were reported to us, we would certainly look into (the allegation),” the general manager said.
Reached at home after the meeting, Olson congratulated the new board members and the council.
“I am very pleased that the board has chosen to appoint Ms. Molinaro and Mr. Millman to fill the vacant seats,” Olson told The Argonaut. “These appointments demonstrate the wealth of talent available in the Mar Vista community, and the ongoing commitment of our stakeholders to step forward and serve their community when the need arises.”
Molinaro was not present at the meeting, but sent an email to the board regarding her appointment.
“If I am fortunate to be selected to fill the vacant at-large director’s position, please thank all the council members for their support and confidence in me,” wrote Molinaro, who has a booth at the Mar Vista Farmers Market. “I am very much looking forward to working with them on the issues that are important to the Mar Vista community.”
Second vice president Bill Koontz saw a silver lining in the events that transpired last month after Olson’s resignation. “I’m glad that this happened,” he told the board.
Koontz said that after the controversy surrounding Molinaro’s nomination, he tried to learn more about the candidate. “I found her to be everything that others had said and more,” he said.
Two of the members who voted against Molinaro last month, Marilyn Marble and Maritza Prezkop, voted in favor of the candidate Dec. 13. William Sheding, who also opposed Molinaro last month, was not present.
In an email to Commins Dec. 8, McFarland, who last month brought a beekeeping initiative before the council that was approved, said that she would withdraw from the nomination process. She indicated that she felt that her candidacy had caused a level of controversy last month.
“Rather than create any more unnecessary drama, I think for now Rob (her husband) and I will focus our efforts (on) getting the bee initiative rolling in L.A.’s other neighborhood councils,” she wrote.
Board member Kate Anderson encouraged the other candidates who applied – Joy Murao, Shane Popp, Vida Ash and Susan Klos – to participate in council committees or other activities in Mar Vista.
Before announcing her board nominations, Commins spoke about last month’s events.
“It’s very awkward taking over for someone else,” she began, adding how much Olson meant to the board and praising his years of service to Mar Vista.
Millman will take the place of zone director Tara Mulski, who resigned in October to move to Arizona.
Koontz was elected to the position of first vice president and Chuck Ray to Koontz’s former position as second vice president.
The board also took action on two other items. The election and bylaws committee proposed a motion encouraging the local council to ask Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl to request sufficient funds that will allow the city clerk to conduct neighborhood council elections no later than the fall of 2012 or the spring of 2013.
City leaders have argued that due to the municipal budget deficit, postponing neighborhood council elections until 2014 would save millions of dollars.
The neighborhood councils in The Argonaut coverage area – Westchester-Playa, Venice, Del Rey and Mar Vista – oppose that plan.
The council also passed a motion to award its green committee $1,000 for the committee’s Green Garden Showcase next year and to support its request to ask city officials to replace portions of the South Lawn of City Hall that was damaged during the “Occupy Los Angeles” movement with permeable landscape and indigenous plants that are naturally drought tolerant.
Commins officially announced that the board would be seeking replacements for Olson’s seat. Per the council’s bylaws, there will be a 40-day period for candidates to submit statements to Commins describing their qualifications for the position.