Saturday, April 5, 2008

OPINION: Showdown Tuesday at Central San Pedro Council

By Doug Epperhart

It’ll be high noon at the Not-So-OK Corral come Tuesday when Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council president Joe Gatlin seeks to eliminate five board members.

At the executive committee meeting two weeks ago, Gatlin, Vice President Mayra Perez and Secretary Pamela Newsom voted to put board members Sue Castillo, Kara McLeod, Dan Pasley, Bill Roberson and Carrie Scoville square in their sights.

Gatlin also placed himself on the chopping block, apparently in an attempt to force board members to make a choice between current leadership and the “accountability” bloc which questions whether the council is sufficiently responsive to community concerns.

At last month’s meeting, several board members allied with Gatlin left as a vote to amend the council’s bylaws was taking place. It seemed obvious the walkout was intended to remove a quorum and stop the proceedings.

Under the council’s existing rules, amending the bylaws requires a two-thirds affirmative vote of those stakeholders present at the meeting.

Stakeholders are individuals who live, work, or own property in the area. It also includes those who have some other tangible connection, such as membership in an organization based in Central’s territory.

Because the vote was already underway when the quorum was lost, the 52-4 result in favor of amending the bylaws is valid. The amended bylaws will take effect when they are approved by the LA city Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.

Among the changes wrought by the amended bylaws are selection of officers by the board (instead of direct election by stakeholders) and allowing any board member to vote on whether items will be placed on the council’s agenda.

Clearly, these changes diminish the power now held by the five executive officers, especially Gatlin. Connecting the dots suggests that his move to oust the five targeted board members is payback for their efforts to turn out a crowd supporting the bylaws amendments.

At the executive meeting, though, Gatlin said he didn’t care about the bylaws vote. If that’s true, then why pick on Castillo, McLeod, Pasley, Roberson and Scoville? They’re not asking for Gatlin’s removal or even resignation.

On Tuesday, perhaps Gatlin will provide some rationale for this irrational act. Maybe he will offer some real evidence why any of these individuals should be removed.

Or is it that he just doesn’t like these people and wants to get rid of them?

It’s unlikely that board members will vote to remove anyone.

So, rather than subject everyone to a pointless exercise, Gatlin should pull these items from the agenda and start working to build trust among board members.

The Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council meets on April 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Port of Los Angeles High School, 250 West Fifth Street.

Doug Epperhart is a member of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council governing board. He can be reached at

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