Four who quit in protest last month return to the board without saying a word about why

By Gary Walker

Well, that didn’t last very long.

A month after resigning in protest over their colleagues’ willingness to bend board bylaws and refusal to eject two members for serial absences, four of the five abdicating Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa members asked for their seats back and, by unanimous consent, were allowed to retake them.

Board President Cyndi Hench, Vice President Mark Redick and members David Oliver, Garrett Smith and Patricia Lyon publicly quit after the contentious 13-5 vote on April 2.

All but Redick sat in the audience on May 1 as Gibson Nyambura of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, the city agency that oversees neighborhood councils, ran the meeting for lack of a president or vice president. Deputy City Attorney Carmen Hawkins, who had consulted with Hench about council bylaws before last month’s public implosion, also attended.

The board voted 15-0 to allow Hench, Oliver, Smith and Lyon to return to the dais.

None offered any explanation of their desire to return, either during the meeting or in response to queries by The Argonaut.

Nor does it appear the issue that drove the resignations — the interpretation of board bylaws and how strictly they should be applied — had any public resolution.

Council member Ted Grose, who back in April voted against Hench’s motion to remove board members David Voss and J.D. Webster for unexcused absences over the objections of those who later resigned, questioned publicly whether the council should have accepted the returning members after they quit in such dramatic fashion.

“Governance 101 says that we should equally and dispassionately apply bylaws. Contrary to some comments that were made at this table last month, the bylaws are not ‘guidelines’; they’re what you rely on to enforce the structure of the board,” Grose began, citing board member Thomas Flintoft’s controversial public interpretation of bylaws being not quite written in stone. “When you publicize your resignation, that says ‘I resign.’ I admonish the board to do the correct thing and not the expedient thing.”

Grose ultimately voted with the majority, but suggested other board members might not have fared as well as if they had left in similar fashion.

“If I had resigned, I would guarantee you that the amount of consideration that is being extended because it’s comfortable would not be extended to me. I guarantee it. Or for many other board members who are sitting around this table. Nobody is indispensable,” he told his colleagues.

Once back on the board, however, Smith joked that the resignations became “one of the best PR moves that could have happened to the neighborhood council,” as traffic to the council’s website increased dramatically, he said.