Cyndi Hench and Mark Redick resign after board refuses to boot David Voss and J.D. Webster for serial absences

By Gary Walker

Cyndi Hench says she resigned from the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa because its members refuse to follow the rules

The Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa’s highest-ranking members have resigned abruptly over a disagreement among board members about whether to eject members who aren’t regularly showing up at meetings.

Board President Cyndi Hench and Vice President Mark Redick decided to quit the board after a contentious and nearly four-hour discussion about whether to remove members David Voss and J.D. Webster, longtime board members who haven’t attended any meetings in 2018.

(Editor’s Note: As of Friday, at least four additional council members have resigned due to the controversy, including David Oliver, Patricia Lyon, Garrett Smith and Kimberly Fox. Geoff Maleman says the issue has been mischaracterized and has posted a statement below to clarify his position.) 

Neighborhood council bylaws allow members up to three unexcused absences (defined by whether the board president is notified in advance) before they are subject to automatic removal from the board. Hench said the city attorney’s office suggested she put the removals on the board agenda and take a vote.

Voss, an active critic of the Playa del Rey road diet last summer, hasn’t attended a meeting since November. Webster hasn’t attended a meeting since May 2017, according to board attendance records. A majority of board members refused to recognize cause for dismissal, however.

“I really saw the disproportionate difference between my views of the bylaws and how others on the board see them. I’m a rule-follower and I just really realized that this is not a group of people that need me,” Hench said the morning after the meeting. “I view unexcused absences as absolutely disrespectful to the board.”

Board secretary Geoff Maleman and area residential director Thomas Flintoft lobbied to keep Voss on the board, citing his lengthy experience and leadership role in the council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee. Maleman suggested other members had missed more than three meetings in the past 15 months, but declined to name names. Flintoft said he hadn’t read the bylaws and considers them more suggestions than rules.

“The bylaws are more of a guideline. I don’t want this to be used as a ‘gotcha’ document,” Flintoft said.

Gibson Nyambura of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which oversees neighborhood council operations, interjected that the bylaws were indeed the governing rules for the council.

“I was stunned. I actually thought that there was more respect for the bylaws,” Hench said.

Redick was also taken aback.

“The Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa is no longer a council of neighborhood interest. It is a council of special interests,” he asserted.

Redick, one of the co-founders of the Del Rey Neighborhood Council and a former president of that council, announced his resignation the morning after the meeting. He cited board secretary Geoff Maleman and area residential director Thomas Flintoft as members who sought to obfuscate the interpretation of the bylaws and confuse other board members.

“Due to the egregious actions and the deliberately misleading statements by Mr. Maleman and Mr. Flintoft, I am effectively resigning from the board immediately,” Redick told The Argonaut. “My resignation isn’t out of frustration… it’s out of disgust.”