Over a decade ago, the people of LA hoped that the Neighborhood Council System [NCs] would become a great institution. The question is: How is that working out?
Clint Eastwood’s Movie “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” stands true for the NCs. There are some good ones; there are some bad ones; and then there are some that are downright ugly, especially in the way they are treating their fellow community members.
According to the 2002 “Executive Directive No PE-1”, which was signed by Mayor James Hahn, the City of Los Angeles has a “Non-Discrimination” policy, which states in part that:
“City policies and personnel practices, including but not limited to, recruitment; selection, advancements, work assignments, compensation, benefits, training, discipline and terminations, … will continue to be established and administered without regard to race, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, creed, marital status, disability, medical condition, … .” (Bold added for emphasis)http://ens.lacity.org/mayor/hahned/mayorhahned248358517_02082005.pdf
NC board members are officials who serve on a city agency and they are part of the city government and thus, Executive Directive No PE-1 applies to them. And even though there is no salary for serving on a Neighborhood Council Board, the city’s standards and policies apply to them as they do to the paid city employees.
That is why Race, Gender, Ethnicity, Religion and any Political Affiliation with a specific group should never be an issue as is it against the law.
The policy also states that:
“Any City employee or employment candidate who believes the City’s policy of equal employment opportunity and non-discrimination has been violated is strongly encouraged, and must not be prohibited from reporting the alleged policy violation. Further, employees and employment candidates can be assured that the necessary steps will be taken promptly to address all reported violations.”
The City is not necessarily that adept at implementing its anti-bias directives. For example, the City is turning a blind eye and a deaf ear on a situation involving the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council [HSDNC], which has been openly and notoriously discriminating against one community member since April 2015.
The HSDNC’s Bylaws and Election Committee held its public meeting on April 22, 2015 (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0t_jgBk3TW7Qm1nRFlWWVQ1cm8/view?usp=sharing), during which board and committee members of the HSDNC decided that it was Okay to bash down on the applicant, who happens to be Venezuelan, and who was applying for one of the open seats on the HSDNC board.
The applicant, Mr. Jimenez, alleges in his 05-09-2015 letter to the City Attorney that during the meeting members of the committee called him a liar, asked him personal questions about his income and told him that “they [the HSDNC] did not want anyone on the board who has any affiliations with any Latino Community Groups or any “little something” in the area.”
Mr. Jimenez was hoping that based on his letter someone from the City Attorney’s office would start investigating the situation. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0t_jgBk3TW7SGRXbFFUbG5XQUU/view?usp=sharing
I was seriously disappointed and disgusted by what I read in the May 9, 2015 letter from Mr. Jimenez and by what he describes in detail of what occurred at the HSDNC’s Bylaws and Election Committee meeting.
The applicant alleged that two of the four committee members, who are also board members, felt it was OKAY to not only discriminate against Mr. Jimenez due to his affiliation with a group called “Little Venezuela”, but also to interrogate him for his personal info such as his personal income and his Driver License.
When Mr. Jimenez pointed out that he not only lives in the area, but also has his business there, one of the committee members asked him to provide his Driver License in order to prove that he (Jimenez) was not lying.
We all have to remember that NC’s are supposed to be inclusive and not to discriminate against any individual or group. The HSDNC has it even in its bylaws per ARTICLE II – PURPOSE, B. The POLICY: 5. To prohibit discrimination against any individual or group in the Council’s operations on the basis of race, religion, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, marital status, income, homeowner/renter status, or political affiliation or belief; … (Bold added for emphasis)
The response from the City Attorney’s office to Mr. Jimenez’ letter was not at all reassuring.
The e-mail from the City Attorney’s office stated in part that “… we [The City Attorney’s Office] don’t process “complaints;”. It concludes with the only reassurance that the City Attorney’s Office will “… provide our client with any and all appropriate advice.“
In the meantime it leaves one to wonder if the City Attorney’s office “advised” the HSDNC to address the issue at the next meeting, and if so, to combine both issues: Mr. Jimenez’ application to the board and the now so-called “Grievance”.
It took the HSDNC one quarter of a year to finally address something, but it was not the letter / grievance, but instead the original application.
Well, let me correct that: The HSDNC didn’t agendize the letter / grievance, but that did not stop the board from talking about it during the 07-13-2015 Board Meeting, in violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0t_jgBk3TW7Ul9qVTR6TzJaSkE/view?usp=sharing
In order to address the “Grievance”, the HSDNC had to take action based on its Grievance clause in its Bylaws and place the Grievance on the agenda for one of the subsequent HSDNC Board Meetings, which could have been the July 13, 2015 board meeting. They did not.
Instead the HSDNC only placed Mr. Jimenez’ application on the agenda for that meeting. There was no mention of the letter / grievance in the item description nor was there any other item alluding to it. https://youtu.be/n_LWSDHML0s
Despite all the mistreatment, Mr. Jimenez never lost sight of being part of the HSDNC Board and to do his share as a board member in order to serve his community.
The July 13, 2015 Board meeting offered him a new chance and opportunity to address the full decision making body.
Here is how Bylaws and Election Committee Chair Orletha Andersen introduced the candidate, who then got a chance to speak, too.
Ms. Andersen: https://youtu.be/S0370USqTvo
Mr. Jimenez: https://youtu.be/m0pz6f44OAQ
Instead of denying the accusations made in the letter / grievance, one of the alleged Discriminators, Mr. Durkee, acknowledged and even agreed with Mr. Jimenez as he had quoted him (Durkee) verbatim. The underhanded Thank You was promptly followed with an accusation that Mr. Jimenez recorded the committee meeting with a “microphone in his pocket”. https://youtu.be/Pn70260UCpE
Another board member then continued the already escalating situation when he took the opportunity to offer the Applicant an ultimatum by asking Mr. Jimenez to send out another letter to City Hall. “If you were just to write another letter to City Hall saying we talked about [it] everything is fine … If you are willing to do that and just tell me you’re burying this thing at that point I won’t have any problem voting to have you on the board …” https://youtu.be/6K07VaFqNBI
One can say that in the end Mr. Jimenez prevailed as he was appointed to the board. But to what cost?
More importantly, perhaps, the question should be: why did it even come this far? Where do we find these people? – Who trains these people? More over: Who steps up to make sure that these types of ridiculously close-minded-bigoted remarks won’t happen in the future?
Imagine yourself in a situation in which you are insulted, discriminated against and basically poo-poo’ed on, resulting in you filing a complaint.
Next you are being told that, in order to make things “better”, you are to withdraw your complaint and to bury the issue just so you can be part of the “gang”.
I call that not only immoral, unethical and wrong, but also utterly stupid, disgusting, infuriating and insulting to anybody who ever filed a complaint or grievance with a Neighborhood Council.
On one hand the City of LA has a policy that basically promises “… the necessary steps will be taken promptly to address all reported violations.” … While on the other hand the City has a system that does not comply with it.
If Neighborhood Councils can pick and choose with the guidance of the City Attorney’s Office and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) when and when not to address a grievance or if these groups are allowed to offer up ultimatums to have a grieved party withdraw a grievance / complaint, then when can the stakeholders feel safe to report any violation of any laws? Let it be the NC’s bylaws, the City Ordinances or even the State Laws, nobody will ever come back to speak up against something they felt was done wrong.
However, if that is the goal of the City of Los Angeles to allow its NC Board Members to be racist, discriminative, demeaning and sexist (just watch this again and pay attention to the “Do you type, too?” remark: https://youtu.be/Pn70260UCpE) and put potential candidates through the ringer not once but twice, then the NC system is on its way to become the greatest institution of horrendous leaders the city has ever seen.
In closing let me point out that in the case of the HSDNC the Grievance system or the understanding of such has been a long time problem that just didn’t rise up overnight. – In fact, back in 2012 the HSDNC Board had a grievance on its desk for many months and one its then board member is now the chair of the HSDNC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuI_Ip0oNKg
Answer me this, if you can: How long will it take the City of Los Angeles to take any real interest in the ongoing “Shenanigans” of its Neighborhood Councils?
Note: Here is the link to the entire un-cut Item 6 http://youtu.be/SaX9IboLnVI