Neighborhood Council Election Challenge Debacle continues
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A letter from Neighborhood Council winning candidate Patrice Berlin to Los Angeles City Atorney Mike Feuer
May 8, 2016
On Monday May 9th a hearing panel will be convened under the authority of the City of Los Angeles to adjudge whether election challenges filed against Mr. Eric Preven and myself have merit.
We were the winning candidates from Studio City Neighborhood Council (SCNC) election held on April 7th 2016.
“Out of an abundance of caution” this proceeding is being reheard. In the first hearing on April 18, the panel found Preven and I guilty of electioneering and sustained the challenge, disqualifying us, and thereby electing the 3rd and 4th place vote getters in our place.
The story was reported prominently by the Los Angeles Times, where the Jay Handal says the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) has referred the matter to you for review.
I assume you were instrumental in the “abundance of caution” decision to have this reheard. However, this new procedure is clearly different than the first. For example, this sentence has been added to:
“If there are any person or person(s) being challenged, they shall have the opportunity to present an opening argument not to exceed ten minutes.”
I’ll take this to mean, as opposed to the first hearing where we were denied our constitutional right under the 6th Amendment to confront the witnesses against us (this new language being absent), but in the new hearing shall we be afforded our rights? Can you or someone from your office confirm this? It seems getting our phone calls returned or having an actual person sign their name to any of the communications we have received from DONE regarding this matter to be problematic. We would welcome this courtesy, as our personal and professional reputations have been, and could further be, damaged by this policy as defined in Los Angeles Administrative Code, section 22.818
I have been advised this code section was created and promulgated into through the Office of the City Attorney and thereby assume your office are the “experts” regarding it, specifically, Darren R. Martinez, who attested to its form and legality on January 6, 2015 (files 11-1018 & 13-1689).
Additionally, there is more new language in the same spirit of permitting us to exercise our constitutional rights:
“If applicable, the person or person (sic) subject to the challenge may present a rebuttal not to exceed five minutes.”
While I am thankful this policy has been “amended on the fly” as it were, I must ask why the panel is only permitted to see written evidence presented by the challenger (Mr. Stuart Miller) but not Preven and I, and the challenger is able to produce sworn witnesses, yet we are not?
This is counter to jurisprudence, as we know it.
It seems this City ordinance assigns a form of defense counsel through an unnamed DONE representative who acts as a quasi public defender (one we never asked for). Do recall in our first hearing, the policy delivered to us was clear we were not afforded the opportunity to speak, or present evidence or produce witnesses. In the first hearing, the DONE Representative, Mr. Jay Handel, never contacted me nor returned emails or phone calls to advise or gather any information regarding this matter, whatsoever. If this is the standard of professionalism accepted by DONE, I would like to know if we are allowed to advocate on our own behalves or choose our own advocate as is common practice and our right.
Mr. Feuer, after the outcome of the first hearing, I have sought professional advisement. The policy in which the first hearing was convened and adjudicated has been likened to a Salem Witch Trial, where we were afforded little or no right to defend the accusations against us, and whoever was tasked with our defense was not competent to do so. I did not attend the first hearing as I felt it was preposterous in its form and process and could not possibly result in the outcome it did.
Further, the “evidence” presented by Mr. Miller is all date stamped after the prescribed deadline, yet was somehow accepted by whoever oversees this process? Who that is? We do not know. DONE? The Los Angeles City Clerk? The Office of the City Attorney. None of this is clear.
In his challenge, Mr. Miller cites LAPD Officer, Mike Lewis, as witnessing his allegations, yet didn’t produce a sworn witness statement from him. We would like to produce a statement or introduce evidence attesting to what Officer Lewis did or did not see. But the “rules of evidence” set forth by this policy prohibit from doing so. That is inherently unfair.
We further understand the hearing of April 18th was the first of its kind, and to anyone familiar with the Los Angeles system of Neighborhood Councils, it was never tested for efficacy in a “moot court” setting or by any other mechanism.
We are advised the net effect of what we have outlined here constitutes “Institutional Failure” and potentially an egregious violation of our civil rights.
Mr. Feuer, you really ought to take a closer look at what is going on as its your department who crafted this policy and ostensibly is overseeing its implementation. As a long time community member, where I live and have run my business for many years, I decided to become more engaged and run for local office. There were tax-funded ads (all city property) urging me to do so. I have worked hard to develop my business and have always prided myself on the positive relationships I’ve built over the years.
Many like-minded neighbors set out to get elected. We rallied the neighborhood, campaigned effectively, and after the initial vote count and the provisional vote count, we were declared the winners… We won fair without cheating, whatsoever.
I will defend myself and my reputation, and further as need be to the full extent of the law.
However, if the administrative code which governs these proceeding can be so easily amended between April 18th and May 9th in the form of a letter and an e-mail, perhaps the rules of evidence can be further amended to allow us to produce the same level of evidence and witnesses in our defense.
Given the seriousness of what has been outlined here, a reply would be appreciated. In everyone’s best interest you should shut down tomorrows hearing considering the facts.
It would be helpful for everyone to write a letter to the addresses listed below as to how you feel about proceeding after looking at the facts.
A note form Eric Preven,
From: Eric Preven <email@example.com>
To: richard.llewellyn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Sun, May 8, 2016 4:34 pm
Subject: Legal issue directly connected to the Mayor
Since Grayce Liu reports directly to the Mayor, you may want to review the brief, password-protected video presentation linked to below, because it includes documented evidence showing that Ms. Liu used the power of her office to create both a private advantage for Lisa Sarkin and Stu Miller and a private disadvantage for Eric Preven and Patrice Berlin. As you know, that is a serious violation of the law–and for good reason.
The tribunal scheduled for tomorrow at 6:30pm will be a flagrant violation of the civil rights of both Patrice Berlin and myself–and is therefore like that proverbial single thread which, when tugged on, threatens to unravel the entire garment to which it is attached.
OurStudioCity.org is here to inform and empower residents. Let’s make local government more responsive to local needs.
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OurStudioCity.org will strive to inform. A repository of information. Want to know more about the Harvard Westlake Project? Sportsmen’s Landing Project? Weddington Golf and Tennis? Mansionization? New developments coming to our neighborhood? A place to ask questions, get answers and share what you know. Get informed prior to attending a Neighborhood Council or Residents Association meeting. Come prepared with probing questions for our SCNC and SCRA representatives.