Last Update: Thursday, December 05, 2013
|Five NHWNC Board Members, One Stakeholder Resign|
|Written by Alex Garcia Sun Contributing Writer|
|Thursday, 26 September 2013 06:31|
Women Accuse Board Of Sexism And Other Irregularities
A. Garcia / SFVS
Back row Debra Francisco, Peggy Randall Burgess and Pat Harrison. Front row Robin Tyler and Mary Armenteros
Name calling, "nasty emails," violations of the Brown Act and bylaws, along with irregularities in the latest election of the president are some of the accusations made by six female members of the North Hills West Neighborhood Council (NHWNC). All six have given their resignations.
Vice President Robin Tyler, Secretary Debra Francisco, Treasurer Mary Armenteros, board members Anita Goldbaum and Pat Harrison, and charter stakeholder Peggy Randall Burgess resigned during the council's last meeting on Thursday, Sept. 19.
Among their grievances: "continued influence upon and interference by the council parliamentarian"; "illegal vote at the 6-4-13 special board meeting electing the new president"; "loss of democracy and the inception of autocratic and dictatorial rule"; "the many Brown Act and bylaws violations"; and "continuous and repetitive bullying, harassment, and discriminatory behavior."
The main target of their allegations is John McGovern, who was elected NHWNC board president in June.
A. Garcia / SFVS
According to the members who resigned, McGovern and two other board members never completed the ethics training required of any new board member within 45 days of taking his post. Thus, it prevented him from being elected president.
"Three members of the board didn't take the ethic exam, including the person that was being elected president. They didn't have voting rights," Francisco said.
Francisco went on to say they should have instead put their candidacy up for vote among the Board.
"The Board should have voted to decide whether or not to go with the vote," she noted.
That opposition voiced by the five women may have sparked what they claim became harassment and discrimination towards them.
"John (McGovern) became totally dictatorial, running the board as if it was his own business," complained several of the women who resigned, who accused him of sending "terrible emails" that referred to them as "the harem."
"There was a lot of sexist behavior. It became totally intolerable," said Francisco, who detailed that "[McGovern] would cut the microphone when I or Mary Armenteros were speaking and he didn't like what he heard."
"They were even laughing at us when we were reading our resignation letters," said Burgess, who added that "they've tried to remove" some of the complainants. "McGovern had a motion on the agenda to remove me, and 20 people showed up at the meeting to defend me," she said.
The women who resigned also take issue with the "interference and influence" presented by Parliamentarian Mike Kabo, whose job is to advise the board in the process of running meetings and rules and regulations.
Kabo, instead, has been giving "misinformation for instructions and a lot of interference," they said.
Tyler, a former board vice president who also resigned, said the attacks in her case were also in reference to her sexual orientation. Tyler is part of the first lesbian couple to challenge Proposition 8.
"I was called too pushy, too excessive, everything but the word," she said.
"I went on this council hoping to plant trees and instead we were the targets of blatant and obvert misogyny that came from this neighborhood council."
In Tyler's opinion, the reason these five women were attacked is that "we were all opinionated, strong women between 60 and 78, and we were not going to sit back and take things that were wrong."
She added all five of them did most of the work for the board and "some of the guys found us too strong."
Complaints Were Made To DONE
The five women said they brought these issues to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), the City of Los Angeles' agency in charge of the neighborhood councils.
"We told them what was going on and they only said they were working on it, but there was never any resolution," Francisco said.
She said that DONE did send someone from the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils to look upon the grievances and that the person witnessed some of the problems.
For these women, the only thing that would make sense is to have the board decertified or remove McGovern as president.
"This Board should be decertified," Burgess said.
Tyler said DONE didn't take the charges of sexism seriously, and she hopes their decision to resign changes that.
"They should have some kind of program that provides sensitivity training, especially if men are going to work with women who are very accomplished," Tyler said.
"I wish DONE would have listened and taken action. Maybe they could have saved the board," Francisco added.
At the close of this edition, emails and phone calls made by the (italics) San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol (italics end) seeking comment from McGovern were not returned.
The Future Of NHWNC
Despite the resignations, the NHWNC can still function.
The Board is made up of 12 members. Five resigned, but there is still a quorum with the remaining seven.
Among them are three women who didn't resign because, "They have not been attacked as we have," Burgess said.
The women, however, hinted that more resignations could come in the near future.
For her part, DONE's General Manager Grayce Liu said they have been aware of the ongoing difficulties with this neighborhood council for some time.
"We've been working with them for the past year," Liu said. "Even before the (June) election they have had conflicts in the past.
"We were hoping with a new board those things would change, and we're disappointed by the resignations."
Liu said they are "still" looking into the matter.
"We're investigating these allegations with the help of the City Attorney's office," she said.
If the allegations are found to be true, Liu said those responsible for the alleged harassment and discriminatory behavior could be "personally liable," as those matters fall under the category of workplace violence, which she emphasized is not tolerated in the City of Los Angeles.
And while the Board can still function, and can even decide to appoint new members to fill the vacancies left by the resignations, she said DONE could consider putting the council on probation.
"They were already teetering on that," Liu said. "We take over their functions" under probation, she added.
DONE is also considering providing training and information to prevent any type of "verbal violence" in the future to the remaining members "to get the board back on track," Liu said.